11 Reasons Why You May Have Trouble Seeing at Night

Halos around headlights from oncoming traffic on a foggy evening.Have you ever been driving down the road at night and noticed it’s more challenging to see? Or perhaps it takes a few seconds longer for your vision to adjust when you walk from daylight into dark or dim lighting. Maybe you see fine during the day but not as well in a low-light environment. Any of these signs that you’re having trouble seeing at night need to be addressed by a physician, especially if you have sudden onset night blindness.

But what is this condition, and what could cause it? Poor night vision could indicate eye disease, a rare genetic disorder, or even a vitamin deficiency. But an underlying condition isn’t the only cause of poor night vision. It could be as simple as an uncorrected vision error and updating your glasses or contact lenses. Learn more about this condition and what could be the cause of it. Then, get in touch with our eye experts to schedule an appointment.

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What Is Night Blindness?

Night blindness, also called night myopia or nyctalopia, is a condition where a person has difficulty seeing at night, in poor light conditions or dim lighting. You may notice this difficulty in seeing well at night, especially when you walk from a brighter to a lower-light environment, such as being outside and then walking into a dimly lit room. Another common sign of night vision problems is difficulty seeing when driving at night, particularly when you see the glare of streetlights or headlights from oncoming traffic.

Night vision issues happen because of rod cells on the outer edges of the eye’s retina. These rod cells are responsible for night vision and detecting movement. When these rod cells become damaged, it makes it more difficult for a person to see at night.

What Are Some of the Possible Causes of Night Blindness?

If your eyes take longer to adjust when walking from bright light to a dimly lit room or you have other symptoms of trouble seeing at night, there are several possible causes. Some of the most common reasons for this vision issue include the following:

1. Cataracts

Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, causing vision loss. Cataracts can also increase glare, halos, and light distortion, making it especially difficult to drive at night. In fact, difficulty seeing or driving at night is often the first symptom of cataracts. As proteins in the lens of the eye begin to deteriorate, cataracts start growing. This problem usually doesn’t happen until your 40s, with symptoms typically starting in your 60s. However, trauma to your eyes can cause cataracts to form as early as your 20s.

2. Diabetes

If you have high blood sugar from diabetes, it can damage the blood vessels in the eye and retina, a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, erratic blood sugars affect the oxygen level in your eyes and your ability to see well.

A man rubbing his eyes under his glasses while trying to write in a dimly lit room.3. Dry Eye

When the quantity of your tears isn’t enough to keep your eye lubricated, you may suffer from dry eye. Dry eye makes it more difficult to see at night because it causes light to scatter abnormally instead of focusing it for clear vision. Because your pupil is usually more open at night, more scattered light enters your pupil, making vision difficult.

4. Eye Surgery

If you have ever had refractive surgery, such as LASIK, for vision correction, reduced night vision may present as either a temporary or permanent side effect. These types of surgery change the cornea’s shape, affecting how light is bent, and can cause more glares or halos around lights at night.

5. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that causes damage to the optic nerve and retina from increased pressure. It eventually leads to vision loss, often attacking peripheral vision first. However, both daytime and nighttime vision is affected as the retina stops working.

6. Injury

Injuries to the eye or to the part of the brain that processes vision can sometimes cause reduced night vision.

7. Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that changes the retina, causing distortion and blind spots in both day and night vision. It is a progressive eye disease and a leading cause of blindness. Some of the earliest signs of macular degeneration are visual impairment when going from daylight to dim lighting situations. We have a specialized screening called Maculogix AdaptDx that can provide information to detect macular damage earlier.

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8. Outdated Vision Prescription

Having a routine comprehensive eye exam is crucial to ensuring you can see well at night. If you experience better daytime vision but poor vision at night, it’s because of the size of your pupils. During the day, your pupils are smaller and provide greater depth of field, which helps compensate for any vision problems. The pupils get much larger at night, so the blur you don’t notice during the day becomes amplified. Your doctor may suggest a slight prescription for you to wear at night to decrease the blurred vision you experience.

Also, if you already wear corrective lenses but have badly scratched glasses or poor lens coatings, it can increase your trouble seeing at night. You can now get special lens coatings on your glasses to help with night vision and foggy conditions.

9. Poor Diet

A poor diet, especially one deficient in Vitamin A, can contribute to poor night vision. Vitamin A is found in greens, like kale, spinach, and broccoli, eggs, butter, and orange vegetables, like carrots, sweet potatoes, and mangos. If your doctor determines you have a serious deficiency, they may prescribe supplements for you.

A side-by-side comparison of normal vision which is clear, and vision with RP, which is cloudy and dark.

10. Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a genetic condition where the pigmented cells in the retina break down, which causes a loss of peripheral vision and trouble seeing at night. People with RP slowly lose their vision over time but usually don’t become totally blind. RP can affect your night, peripheral, central, and color vision.

11. Too Much Screen Time

Spending too much time staring at a screen can lead to dry eye, which makes vision more difficult at night, as we mentioned before. It’s best to practice the 20-20-20 rule, where you take a break from screens every 20 minutes and stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This practice helps keep your eyes from straining, which can help you see better at night.

What Should I Do if I Have Trouble Seeing at Night?

If you have trouble seeing at night, please do not hesitate to contact us for an eye exam. Since some causes are treatable and completely benign, while others are more serious, you need an eye doctor to help determine the cause. Treatments range from include getting a special pair of glasses or contact lenses to wear at night and cataract surgery to medication. It’s also advised that you wear sunglasses during the day to help ease the transition from the outdoors to the indoors.

Don’t wait any longer to deal with this poor night vision. Contact our friendly staff today and get help seeing better at night.

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