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Vision - night blindness

Night blindness is poor vision at night or in dim light.

Considerations

Night blindness may cause problems with driving at night. People with night blindness often have trouble seeing stars on a clear night or walking through a dark room, such as a movie theater.

These problems are often worse just after a person is in a brightly lit environment. Milder cases may just have a harder time adapting to darkness.

Causes

The causes of night blindness fall into two categories: treatable and nontreatable.

Treatable causes:

Nontreatable causes:

Home Care

Take safety measures to prevent accidents in areas of low light. Avoid driving a car at night, unless you get your eye doctor's approval.

Vitamin A supplements may be helpful if you have a vitamin A deficiency. Ask your health care provider.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

It is important to have a complete eye exam to determine the cause, which may be treatable. Call your eye doctor if symptoms of night blindness persist or significantly affect your life.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will examine you and your eyes. The goal of the medical exam is to determine if the problem can be corrected (for example, with new glasses or cataract removal), or if the problem is due to something that is not treatable.

The doctor may ask you questions, including:

  • How severe is the night blindness?
  • When did your symptoms start?
  • Did it occur suddenly or gradually?
  • Does it happen all the time?
  • Does using corrective lenses improve night vision?
  • Have you ever had eye surgery?
  • What medications do you use?
  • How is your diet?
  • Have you recently injured your eyes or head?
  • Do you have a family history of diabetes?
  • Do you have other vision changes?
  • What other symptoms do you have?
  • Do you have unusual stress, anxiety, or a fear of the dark?

The eye exam will include:

Other tests may be done:

Alternative Names

Nyctanopia; Nyctalopia; Night blindness

References

Tomsak RL. Vision loss. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann;2008:chap 14.

Sieving PA, Caruso RC. Retinitis pigmentosa and related disorders. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO;Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 6.10.

Update Date: 9/3/2012

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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