Night blindness or nyctalopia as it is medically termed, affects the person’s ability to adjust his/her vision in dim light or when surrounded by darkness. Unlike complete blindness where the person cannot see under any circumstances, night blindness occurs only when the person is present in a poorly lit environment. However, it should be noted that night blindness can be easily treated and cured if the causative factors are diagnosed at the earliest.
What is Night Blindness?
Night blindness is a condition where the person is unable to adjust or adapt his/her vision in dark or dim environments. This condition can be hereditary or acquired. The reasons for a person developing night blindness are numerous and could range from birth defects to nutritional deficiencies.
Important Causes of Night Blindness
There are several causative factors that can lead to the development of night blindness among the general masses. It could be something serious like an underlying disease condition or something as simple as a vision problem.
It is important to realize that night blindness is not a disease in itself but rather a symptom that indicates the presence of an underlying disease condition or disorder. Listed below are five common causes for night blindness observed in people cutting across geographical barriers or socio-economic status:
This is by far one of the most common causes for night blindness. Generally seen in the elderly population, cataracts make it very difficult for the person to adjust his vision.
Clouding of lens due to debris could indicate cataract formation, directly affecting the eye’s ability to see properly. Night blindness is one of the initial symptoms of cataract and therefore, should never be ignored.
A heredity disorder, retina pigmentosa leads to retinal damage. Over time, the retina becomes dysfunctional due to cell destruction, leading to night blindness. This is usually seen in people who are younger than 30 years of age.
Therefore, if you notice decreased vision at night and are younger than 30, it is highly recommended that you get the condition diagnosed and receive appropriate treatment to prevent further aggravation.
A diet deficient in vitamin A and/or zinc can directly lead to decreased vision. These nutrients are responsible for maintaining healthy epithelial cells that line the skin and eyes. A deficiency will lead to decreased maintenance, in turn decreasing the person’s ability to see properly.
A steady increase in blood glucose levels leading to uncontrolled diabetes will affect several vital organs in the body including the eyes. An increase in blood glucose will directly damage the retina, resulting in a sudden burst of blood vessels under pressure in and around the optic region. This causes night blindness.
Symptoms of Night Blindness
Difficulty While Driving
This is the most common symptom experienced by many. The affected person will find it very difficult to focus on what’s ahead on the road due to the retina’s inability to focus and adjust in dark conditions.
It may also occur in people who find it extremely difficult to focus on the road as soon as their eyes are exposed to bright headlights from vehicles that drive past in the opposite direction.If you suddenly develop this condition, it is highly recommended that you pay a visit to a doctor at the earliest.
Inability to See Stars Clearly
Others may complain about not being able to see stars clearly on a clear night sky. If you notice the stars to be unusually blurred when you experienced no such vision problems earlier, you could be suffering from night blindness. Asking for a secondary opinion from a family member or friend is a wise option to consider.
Difficulty to See in Dark Rooms
If you find it extremely difficult to see anything in a room that does not have any lighting whatsoever, you could be suffering from night blindness.
Types of Night Blindness
There are two main types of night blindness namely:
Congenital Night Blindness
As the name suggests, this type of night blindness affects the person right from the moment he/she is born. Genes are known to play a crucial role in triggering this type of vision impairment.
Progressive Night Blindness
In this condition, the person will develop vision impairment later on in life. Mostly seen in the elderly sections of the society, progressive night blindness is an automatic result of decreased organ functioning which increases with age.
Four Important Risk Factors
Having sufficient knowledge about the possible risk factors that could lead to night blindness will always come in handy. Look out for the following conditions that could trigger or activate night blindness:
Night blindness caused by retina pigmentosa is linked to genetic factors. Therefore, if your family members suffer from retina pigmentosa, the chances of you acquiring the same cannot be ruled out.
Chances of suffering from night blindness increases proportionately with age. The elderly sections of the society are more prone to decreased vision due to a general decrease in their body’s overall health status.
Those suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure or liver disorders are easily prone to night blindness.
Eating the right type of foods plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s health and well-being. People who don’t eat foods that are rich in vitamin A are vulnerable. It is especially seen in people residing in poor countries who cannot afford animal products. The latter are extremely rich in vitamin A.
How Can Night Blindness Be Treated?
In most cases, a simple eye test is sufficient to diagnose the condition. In cases of nutritional deficiencies, the doctor might ask you to go in for a blood test to check for the vitamin A levels in your body.Treatment depends on the causative factor that leads to night blindness. Therefore, if you have been diagnosed with cataracts, surgery to treat the condition is the best option available.
Decreased vision due to nutritional deficiencies is generally treated by administering medications and external supplementations that would boost the body’s nutrient reserves rapidly in a short period of time. This is extremely useful for those who need fast and effective results to recover quickly. External medications are often complimented with dietary changes to help the person change his/her eating habits.
This will make the treatment successful and long lasting.For those suffering from vision problems, prescription of corrective lenses is sufficient to take care of the person’s eye condition.Those suffering from diabetes have to be placed under strict medical supervision to prevent further optical damage. In some cases, untreated diabetic conditions could lead to complete blindness.In most cases, quick diagnosis will lead to excellent chances of recovery. A delay in treatment or diagnosis can lead to complete blindness along with several unwanted complications.