Night Blindness: Causes Of Nyctalopia And Treatments Available

Night Blindness

Night blindness, also known as nyctalopia, is the inability to see clearly at night or in dim light (such as raining or dark room). 

Nyctalopia is not an eye disease or disorder.

It is actually a symptom or indication of an underlying problem in which some may be serious.

Most people with nyctalopia are able to see normally in the day but in night time, they become blind as mice. 

Some individuals have so much trouble with nyctalopia that they wear eyeglasses only at night.

Night blindness is absolutely inconvenient and it can be dangerous. Especially if you are driving or walking on the road at night. You just couldn't see what is in front of you.




How Night Vision Works?

A visual image is formed when light rays reflected from a targeted object, pass through your eyes and reach the retina at the back of the eye.

In dark environment, our pupil naturally expands to allow more light in. 

Rod and Cones

In our retina, there are two cells which perceive light - cones and rods.

Cone cells can perceive color in bright light and offer fine image details.

Rod cells work best in low light but can only perceive between shades of black and white images and provide much poorer image resolution. 

As you have guessed, in poor lit areas, we use the rod cells dominantly.

That is why our night vision is generally more nearsighted than our day vision.

No wonder army has to build night vision goggles and scope for soldiers to fight in the dark.

Nonetheless, if you are having great difficulty to see in the dark like me, you might be having night blindness.


Different between normal vision and night blindness



What Causes Night Blindness?

There are several possible causes of nyctalopia. Causes include:


Cataracts

As we age, our natural eye lens start to become unclear and cloudy. The clouding blocks and distorts light entering our eyes. Common signs of cataracts are blurriness, night blindness and halos.


Diabetes 

Diabetes is a known cause for reduced night vision. Over time, high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels that supply the retina.

This causes leakage and may damage the retina (retinopathy).

Two early signs of retinopathy from diabetes are poor night vision and taking a long time to see normally after coming indoors from bright light outside.


Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome reduces the quality and quantity of your tear film. This can affect the condition of the cornea thus affecting the quality of vision, especially night vision.


LASIK Complications

Complications of LASIK are fairly common. One common complaint of patient is distorted night vision in form of glare and halos around objects.

See my article on Dangers of LASIK for the short and long term complications of LASIK.




Retinitis Pigmentosa

One of the most serious causes of night blindness but fortunately it is pretty rare.

Retinitis pigmentosa is an uncommon genetic disorder that is frequently diagnosed in early childhood.

It causes the cones and rods in the retina to deteriorate and eventual permanent vision loss. Worsening night vision is often the earliest symptom. 


Uncorrected Nearsightedness

Another general cause is uncorrected nearsightedness (myopia). Even with vision correction, nearsighted people may find their nearsightedness worsen when their pupils dilate at night (start improving your nearsightedness with eye exercises).


Vitamin A Deficiency

A common cause of night blindness in developing countries. Vitamin A is a crucial ingredient in keeping your retina healthy. The lack of it causes your retina not being able to function properly and results in reduced night vision.


Zinc Deficiency

Zinc works in the eye as a partner to vitamin A. Without zinc, the vitamin A that's present may not be as effective, and nyctalopia could result. 


Night Blindness Treatment

Treating night blindness with nutrients

The treatment will depend on its causes. 

Nutrients deficiency (Vitamin A and Zinc) is the easiest to treat.

Just incorporate more carrots, tomatoes and green leafy vegetables for vitamin A, and beans, nuts and poultry for Zinc.

If you want better protection and don’t want to eat so much food to maintain sufficient nutrients for your eye, consider taking Ocu-Plus vitamins.

Ocu Plus vitamins also contains bilberry extracts which was commonly taken by pilots during WWII to improve night vision.

If the cause is cataracts, you can go for cataracts surgery to remove the clouded lens and replace it with artificial intraocular lens. Vision is usually dramatically improved after surgery.

For dry eye syndrome, lubricate your eyes with artificial tear drops can provide instant relief. Just make sure that they are without preservatives.home remediespermanent relief.

Diabetic retinopathy can be prevented with tight control of blood sugar, active lifestyle and good dietary habits. If you already have diabetic retinopathy, there are laser and vitrectomy surgery available.

See Treatment For Diabetic Retinopathy for more details.

As for retinitis pigmentosa, unfortunately there are no treatments available. Thankfully, new research is showing that vitamin A might have a slowing effect on the progression of this eye disease.

But make sure that this is done under close supervision of a doctor as overdose of vitamin A can be harmful.


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