Ask the Doctor: The Problem With Your Night Vision

Content provided by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School

Q. I have trouble seeing things clearly at night. Should I change my glasses, or could it be a more serious eye problem?

A. Particularly as people reach age 60 and older, trouble seeing at night is a common problem. The problem could be with your glasses, or with your eyes.

First, your glasses. Since you last were fitted for glasses, your correction might have changed. Because there's less light at night, the fact that your prescription is no longer accurate can be more apparent at night than during the day.

Even if the correction of your glasses is right, adding an antireflective coating to the glasses can cut down the glare of bright lights (like from the headlights of an oncoming car).

Now, your eyes. A common problem as we get older is dry eye: we don't make enough tears, and the cornea (the outer surface of the eye) gets dry and irritated. Regularly using artificial tears can often fix the problem. Stronger treatments may sometimes be necessary.

Cataracts are another relatively common cause of trouble with night vision. If you have cataracts, the lenses inside your eye are no longer completely clear. Fortunately, these days surgery to remove foggy lenses is simple and successful.

Finally, the back of the eye—the retina—may have a problem. One of the more common problems is macular degeneration. A complete eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist can usually help identify ways to improve your night vision.

—Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D.
Editor in Chief
Harvard Health Letter

Last Annual Review Date: 2012-07-01 Copyright: 2012 Harvard Health Publications

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