Blinded by the night: Vision trouble after hours

If you’re like most people, the evenings present many opportunities to spend time with family, go out with friends, or even finish up the day’s work. As such, having trouble seeing after hours can really put a dent in your most precious, active time. Not to worry, with a little night blindness know-how, you’ll bring out your inner night owl again. 

Defining night blindness

Night blindness, or nyctalopia, is a condition that makes it difficult to see clearly in low-lighting or at night. Nyctalopia is most commonly thought of as a symptom, since it results from a variety of other conditions of the eyes. 

While your night blindness could be a result of genetics, dietary needs, or even injury, most commonly it is linked to a problem with the light-detecting “rod cells” at the back of your eye. Your retinas have two separate types of visual cells—rods and cones. Cones allow you to see the colors reflected off objects in well-lit environments, and the more sensitive rod cells function with less light and allow you to see contrast at night. 

Identifying symptoms of nyctalopia

Rod cells not only function for the purpose of night vision, but they also line the outside edges of your retinas and make peripheral vision possible. As such, symptoms of nyctalopia include: 

  • A lack of contrast in low-lighting and at night
  • A decrease or lack of peripheral vision
  • Difficulty seeing in the evenings or dark settings
  • Eyes adjust slowly between bright and dim settings 

Causes of night blindness

Individuals who have night blindness are typically experiencing it as a symptom of a deeper underlying problem. Some common conditions include: 

  • Myopia
  • Medications for glaucoma that constrict the pupil
  • Cataracts
  • Vitamin A deficiency 

While all of these conditions are potential culprits of your symptoms, the most common cause of night blindness is a genetic condition called “retinitis pigmentosa.” Over time, rod cells from individuals with this condition lose the ability to respond properly to light. 

Treatment for better vision

With a wide range of causes, it’s best not to make any assumptions about what might be causing your night blindness. A trip to your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam will reveal what’s causing your symptoms. 

While cataracts might require surgery to cure your night blindness, a vitamin A deficiency is easily resolved by eating more leafy greens, fish, and dairy products. Or it might even be as simple as a new vision prescription or switching medications for your glaucoma. 

Whatever the cause, you will have options to lessen or cure your nyctalopia entirely after your consultation. And it’s even easier when you use your VSP Individual Plan to schedule your appointment. If you don’t have vision insurance, find out how VSP can help you save on your next eye exam or pair of glasses.


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