Night Vision Problems and Causes

Tuesday, June 26 2012

Night Vision Problems and Causes

If you struggle to see at night, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans have night vision problems. Poor night vision may be caused by any of a number of factors. Sometimes, problems with night vision may be treatable. Other times, the problems are more serious.

Often with age, our vision -- especially night vision -- begins to decline. Sometimes, vision problems with age are due to presbyopia. Night vision problems may be an early sign of cataracts, and can be corrected with cataract surgery. Other night vision problems, including seeing halos or glare around lights, or even night blindness, may be caused by a congenital problem, vitamin deficiency or other disease

 Common causes and treatments of night vision problems

Cataracts -- Cataracts may be the most common cause of poor night vision. In older adults, many night vision problems are an early sign of cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye. Decreased night vision is often a first symptom of cataracts. Many cataract patients will see halos or a glare around lights, especially at night. In this case, night vision may be restored with cataract surgery.

Vitamin A and/or zinc deficiency -- Vitamin A is essential for the health of the retina. Though a deficiency in vitamin A is a rare cause of night vision problems or night blindness, it is often seen in patients with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis or pancreatic insufficiency. Vitamin A is found in carrots and yellow or green leafy vegetables. If you suffer from any of the mentioned diseases, be sure you are getting plenty of vitamin A in your diet by eating the right vegetables or taking a vitamin supplement.

Zinc is an important partner to vitamin A. The presence of zinc makes vitamin A more effective in the body. Beef, poultry, beans and nuts are all sources of zinc. If you don’t eat meat, you may want to consider taking a zinc supplement.

Exposure to sunlight -- The sun’s rays can be extremely damaging to the eye. Prolonged exposure to brightness from the sun can affect your night vision for up to 48 hours, but isn’t permanent. Wearing sunglasses will help you maintain night vision after time spent outside.

Diabetes -- Diabetic retinopathy gradually damages the retina of the eye. Poor night vision is an early sigh of retinopathy. A long vision adjustment time after coming indoors from being outside in bright light is another sign of retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can be prevented when blood sugar levels are controlled with medicine and diet. Laser eye surgery can also be performed to destroy the tiny blood vessels formed by retinopathy that can impair vision.

LASIK surgery problems -- Though uncommon, especially with today’s advanced LASIK surgery procedures, some people may experience impaired night vision following LASIK laser eye surgery. The most common problems are seeing glares and halos around lights or other objects at night. Some people may be more prone to developing night vision problems after LASIK. Before undergoing LASIK surgery, discuss your risk of night vision problems with your doctor.

Retinitis pigmentosa -- This is a rare genetic disorder affecting young people. An early symptom of the disorder is night vision problems. This rare disorder causes progressive degeneration of the retina.

If you experience blurry vision, see glares or halos around lights or simply struggle to see at night, it’s important that you contact your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam. Because poor night vision is often an early symptom of a more serious problem, seeing your doctor immediately may aid in early detection, giving you a better prognosis for recovery.

Do you have questions about night vision problems? Ask us in the comments below or join our live Facebook chat with Key-Whitman doctors on the first Thursday of every month!

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