Night Vision Problems: Symptoms, Causes & Correction

Turning the Spotlight on Poor Night Vision

Poor night vision or night blindness (and if you want to impress your friends, the medical term – Nyctalopia) refers to a more-than-normal difficulty seeing in low light or at night. This difficulty with vision in the dark tends to be more noticeable when you move from a brightly lit area into a dimly lit one or vice versa. Most people report first noticing this when driving at night.

How Is It Diagnosed?

If you notice these symptoms and think you may have poor night vision, consult your optometrist immediately. A usual eye test may not show poor night vision, so you will need to be able to accurately describe your symptoms to the optometrist.

Testing for night blindness will include the use of eye drops to dilate your pupils to allow a thorough examination of the retina. Dark adaptation time and visual fields may also be assessed in conjunction with a test for glare recovery time.

Poor Night Vision And Age

Poor night vision is seen as a problem of “old age” . While it may affect people as they age, it can affect anyone at any age, however, most sufferers who notice a significant loss of vision at night will be over 40 years old .

Things can change relatively quickly, for example, an average 50 year old may need twice as much light in order to see like an average 30 year old. Poor night vision is also sometimes a symptom of an underlying condition, so it can happen to anyone, of any age, even children.

  • Poor Night Vision

Can Poor Night Vision Be Dangerous?

A driver’s ability to react in a timely and sensible manner really depends on how well they can see, so difficulty with night driving is the primary concern with poor night vision. Normal vision at night is limited anyway, so night blindness can significantly increase the risk of an accident.

Lights on high beam, additional driving lights and fog lights while designed to help you when driving at night, can cause glare for those with poor night vision increasing their risk of accident.

Top Causes of Night Blindness

Some causes are treatable, requiring lifestyle changes, medical or surgical intervention, while some others are not.


Short-sighted people can also suffer from night blindness. As myopic eyes tend to be longer the retina and the retinal pigment can be stretched leading to more sensitivity to low light.

Suggested treatment: Ensure your prescription is up to date and ask your optometrist to check if there is a variation between low light and bright light conditions


These are caused by alterations in the proteins of the lens of the eye causing it to take in fluid. Cataracts slowly cloud the lens and your vision, impacting on the light that enters your eyes. You may see ‘halos’ or 'starbursts' around lights and experience blurry vision.

Suggested treatment: Cataract surgery.

Retinitis Pigmentosa

This is a rare, inherited disease that progressively degenerates the light sensitive retinal cells. SOme people will retain some vision while others will loose all their sight

Suggested treatment: According to Vision Australia there is no standard treatment for retinitis pigmentosa but research on gene and stem cell therapies are ongoing

Overexposure to sunlight

Prolonged sun exposure without adequate sunglasses means that the lens absorbs more UV and this can aid in reducing night vision. Over exposure to UV also increases your risk of cataract development.

Suggested treatment: Photochromic lenses like Transitions or polarised lenses like Xperio will reduce sun glare and protect you from UV and the potential damage from sun exposure.


The disease predisposes you to night vision problems. High blood sugar damages the blood vessels and nerves in your eyes over time causing a condition called diabetic retinopathy.

Suggested treatment: Ensure your diabetes is well controlled and visit your optometrist regularly for vision assessment.

Lack of Vitamin A

If you are already getting enough vitamin A in your diet then taking more won’t cure your poor night vision.  However, if you have a vitamin A deficiency (this can be caused by things such as bowel surgery) then this can be related to your poor night vision.

Suggested treatment: Eating a variety of vegetables high in vitamin A or take a vitamin supplement.

Not enough Zinc

Vitamin A needs Zinc to perform better, so you need to be taking the right amount of that too.

Suggested treatment: Get Zinc from beef, poultry, beans, and nuts or it is often included in vitamin supplements

The best advice, in general, is to be vigilant and responsible and make sure that you have regular eye tests. See your optometrist immediately if you notice any changes in your night vision.

Having trouble seeing at night?

Visit your nearest optometrist for an eye test today



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