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Night blindness is a kind of vision impairment. It is also known as nyctalopia. People who suffer from night blindness suffer from poor vision at night or in dimly lit environments. The term is not to be confused with blindness. Night blindness sufferers just have more difficulty seeing or driving in darkness.

The causes of night blindness are many. Some causes are treatable. Others aren’t. Your doctor will give you the best advice. 

The conditions that can cause night blindness are as follows:

  • Nearsightedness or blurred vision when looking at faraway objects
  • Cataracts or the clouding of the lens of the eyes
  • Retinitis pigmentosa, a condition in which dark pigment collects in the retina and creates tunnel vision.
  • Usher syndrome, which is a genetic condition that affects both hearing and vision

Older adults are at a greater risk of developing night blindness because they are more prone to developing cataracts. In those parts of the world, where children suffer from nutritional deficiency, a lack of vitamin A may also lead to night blindness. Vitamin A, which is also called retinol, has a part to play in transforming nerve impulses into images in the retina, which is the light-sensitive area in the back of the eye. 

Patients who have pancreatic insufficiency such as individuals with cystic fibrosis find it difficult to absorb fat and are at a greater risk of suffering from vitamin A deficiency because vitamin A is fat-soluble. This makes them more vulnerable to night blindness.

Night blindness caused by nearsightedness, cataracts, or vitamin A deficiency can be treated. Corrective lenses fitted into eyeglasses or contacts, can improve nearsighted vision whereas cataracts will be removed by an eye surgeon, who will replace your cloudy lens with a clear, artificial lens. Vitamin A deficiency can be made up through vitamin supplements or through intake of foods rich in the vitamin such as:

  • Cantaloupes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkins
  • Butternut Squash 
  • Mangoes
  • Spinach
  • Collard Greens
  • Milk 
  • Eggs

Genetic conditions that cause night blindness, such as retinitis pigmentosa, aren’t treatable. The gene that causes pigment to build up in the retina doesn’t respond to corrective lenses or surgery. People who have this form of night blindness should avoid driving at night.

However, if your night blindness is a result of a genetic condition such as retinitis pigmentosa then that cannot be cured. The gene responsible for this condition causes pigment to build up in the retina and does not respond to surgery or corrective lenses. Driving at night is hence not advised. Another genetic condition is called the Usher syndrome. This is an inherited condition that causes impairment of vision and hearing brought about by the occurrence of retinitis pigmentosa and abnormal auditory neural conduction.

This condition is not preventable. However, proper diet control and monitoring of blood sugar levels and eating a balanced diet can help you keep night blindness at bay. Eating foods that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, may prevent cataracts. Foods rich in vitamin A will also help you keep night blindness at bay.

Tip: If you suffer from night blindness, wearing sunglasses or a brimmed hat will help reduce the glare of a brightly lit environment, easing your transition to a darker environment.

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