Night blindness or nyctalopia is the inability to see well at night or in poor light. It’s a symptom of an underlying problem, not a disease in itself. Some causes are:
- Myopia or nearsightedness
- Sunlight exposure
- Cataracts and Diabetes
- Vitamin A and Zinc deficiencies
- Genetic conditions
Most of these causes are either preventable or treatable.
Use Corrective Lenses and Sunglasses
If you are nearsighted or have myopia, you may have trouble seeing at night as well as during the day, but it’s easy to improve your vision with corrective lenses, such as eyeglasses or contacts. Intermittent light and dark can impair vision as well, so take care to wear sunglasses outdoors and avoid looking directly at oncoming headlights when you drive in the dark.
Monitor Blood-Sugar to Avoid Diabetes and Cataracts
Other treatable forms of night blindness include cataracts. A doctor can surgically remove clouded portions of your eye’s lens and replace them with an artificial lens. People who have high blood-sugar levels or diabetes are susceptible to cataracts. Properly monitoring your blood-sugar levels and eating a balanced diet may make night blindness less likely.
Watch What You Eat
Lack of vitamin A or zinc aren’t common causes of night blindness, but it won’t hurt to eat foods rich in these nutrients if you have trouble seeing at night. Eating carrots and other foods that contain lutein and beta carotene promote eye health and can improve your eyesight, especially at night. When your body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, it forms rhodopsin, the reddish-purple, light-sensitive pigment in your eye cells that helps you see at night. Getting enough vitamin A by consuming carrots and other foods rich in beta carotene really can improve your night vision.
Conversely, a deficiency in vitamin A can lead to night blindness, which is often reversible by supplementing with over-the-counter vitamins or vitamin-enriched foods. Orange carrots are especially high in beta carotene.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral or “helper molecule” that plays a vital role in bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina. When that happens, the body is able to produce melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes. Zinc is highly concentrated in the eye, mostly in the retina and choroid, the vascular tissue layer lying under the retina.
According to Medical News Today, the human body does not store zinc, so it’s important to know how to get enough zinc in your daily diet. Poultry and red meat are common sources of zinc and oysters contain more zinc per serving than anything else in our Western diet. If you’re not a meat eater, try low-fat yogurt, pumpkin seeds, milk, chickpeas, instant oatmeal, almonds, peas, beans, Cheddar cheese, or fortified foods with zinc to help you meet your daily requirement.
Depending on whether you’re maie, female, young, old, or pregnant, your daily intake of zinc varies. Check the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website for recommendations on how much zinc you need every day to maintain a healthy diet.
Have Your Eyes Checked
The American Academy of Ophthalmology describes a serious but rare genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which changes how the retina responds to light, making it hard to see. People with retinitis pigmentosa lose their vision slowly over time, but do not usually become blind.The type and speed of vision loss from this disease varies from person to person. Symptoms include lack of night vision as well as lack of peripheral vision and changes in color vision. If this or other retinal disease is discovered during an exam, a retina specialist may be able to help.
Talk with Your Doctor
Talk with your ophthalmologist or optometrist about the benefits of resting your eyes and doing eye exercises after you wake up, before you go to bed, or anytime your eyes feel tired. Exercises your doctor suggests will improve your vision by strengthening your eye muscles and boosting your peripheral vision.
Make An Appointment
To determine what is causing night blindness, make an appointment with an eye doctor, who will perform a thorough eye exam. According to the Cleveland Clinic, named a top U.S. hospital in U.S. News & World Report’s “2019-20 Best Hospitals,” some types of night blindness are treatable; others aren’t. Treatment may be as simple as getting a new eyeglass prescription or switching glaucoma medications. Schedule an eye exam today if your night vision isn’t what it used to be. We can help.