What is Night Blindness (Nyctalopia)?
Night blindness (nyctalopia) is an eye condition in people with an underlying eye problem.
Night blindness is not necessarily an eye disease. Instead, it occurs because of a retinal disease or optical issues. For example, people who have myopia (nearsightedness) could experience problems with night vision.
With night blindness, people have trouble seeing clearly at night or in dimmed lighting, like in a movie theater or restaurant. Nyctalopia may be associated with a disease, injury, or condition that affects the rod cells (located in retinal tissue), which are responsible for vision in the dark.
It is important to understand that night blindness does not refer to literal blindness, when vision is completely lost. Night blindness implies poor sight at night or in poorly lit environments.
Symptoms of Night Blindness
Because night blindness is a symptom of an underlying eye problem, symptoms can vary depending on the cause.
For example, people who experience night blindness may have trouble getting around the house at night, even when small night lights are turned on.
Similarly, driving at night can be more complicated. People affected by night blindness might be afraid of tripping when going outside. People may also describe not recognizing others' faces at first sight in low-light settings.
People with night blindness may find it takes the eyes more time than usual to adjust to light coming in from the darkness or objects in a dark room. Other symptoms of night blindness may include:
- Eye pain
- Blurry or cloudy vision
- Light sensitivity
- Distance vision problems
What Causes Night Blindness?
Different underlying conditions or problems can lead to night blindness. However, not all causes are treatable. The following list describes the causes of night blindness according to its treatability.
- Myopia (nearsightedness)
- Glaucoma medications (can constrict the pupil)
- Cataracts (clouding of the lens in the eye)
- Vitamin A deficiency (also referred to as a retinol deficiency)
- Diabetes (contributes to the development of cataracts and diabetic retinopathy)
- Keratoconus (a rather steeply curved cornea)
- Usher syndrome (a genetic condition that leads to serious hearing loss/deafness and retinitis pigmentosa)
- Retinitis pigmentosa (an eye disease that damages the retina, primarily affecting rod cells)
- Congenital disorders (such as congenital stationary night blindness)
Congenital stationary night blindness means the vision problems accompanying the disease are present from birth. They do not often change over time. This condition seems more frequent in people of Dutch-German Mennonite descent.
Night Blindness Treatment Options
People with night blindness should consult an ophthalmology clinic and describe all symptoms to their eye doctor. Because night blindness can occur due to an underlying cause, treatment will depend on the underlying eye problem.
For example, prescription eyeglasses or different glaucoma medications may resolve or partially address the issue of night blindness. However, surgical intervention may be necessary in other cases, such as cataracts.
People living with a retinal disease should consult a retina specialist to determine if treatment or care support is possible.
How Can I Cure Night Blindness Naturally?
Night blindness is not treatable at home. Instead, consult an optometrist and seek medical advice for proper treatment, if available.
However, people can take preventive steps to minimize the risk of night blindness. These steps include:
Eating Vitamin A-Rich Foods
These foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, spinach, milk, and eggs. Vitamin A supplements may also be helpful, but it is best to speak with a healthcare provider first to determine if such supplements are suitable.
Regular Eye Exams
If possible, an eye care specialist could identify early-stage eye problems and provide the most appropriate treatment response.
UV exposure raises the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration (the central part of the retina called the macula deteriorates), and glaucoma. These eye problems could impact vision and lead to night blindness.
Working out could reduce eye pressure and lower blood glucose, which could, in turn, minimize the risk of further eye problems.
Night Blindness vs. Normal Blindness
Night blindness and normal blindness are similar in that both can refer to vision loss. However, normal blindness may be more damaging and suggest a loss of vision that cannot be corrected with eyewear or surgery.
Although people with night blindness can experience a partial loss of vision, it is not a complete loss.
Normal blindness can often occur because of the following health conditions:
- Complete retinal detachment
- End-stage glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye)
- Vascular occlusion (stroke in the eye)
- Severe internal eye infection (endophthalmitis)
Night blindness is when you have trouble seeing clearly at night or in dimmed lighting. This condition usually indicates an underlying problem. Consult an eye doctor to determine the proper treatment. Different preventative steps are also available to minimize the progression and risk of night blindness.
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