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When Do I Need to Get an Eye Exam?

May 16, 2022

Get an eye exam if it’s getting harder to see things at night

Fading night vision can be dangerous, especially for older motorists who drive after dark.

If it’s getting harder to see at night, it’s time to schedule an eye exam. Night vision often worsens with age. And other age-related problems like cataracts or glaucoma can seeing at night more difficult.

People’s eyes can experience significant changes for a variety of reasons, including age:

  • People’s pupils shrink with age and don’t dilate as much in the dark, reducing the amount of light entering the eye. Imagine what it would be like to see at night if you were wearing sunglasses.
  • The cornea and lens in the eye become less clear with age, which increases glare. The changes also reduce the ability to distinguish subtle differences in brightness, making it more difficult to see objects on the road at night.
  • Some people’s eyes have optical imperfections known as higher-order aberrations, which cannot be corrected with eyeglasses or contacts. These aberrations can increase with age and cause glare, especially when pupils dilate at night.
  • A variety of age-related conditions – including macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and cataracts – can affect night vision. In fact, the first symptom of cataracts is often a worsening night vision.
  • A lack of vitamin A can affect eyesight. Vitamin A, which is found in carrots and leafy vegetables, helps keep the retina healthy. Most Americans get enough vitamin A in their diets. Still, people who suffer from conditions that make it hard to absorb nutrients – like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or a gastric bypass – may have night vision problems.
  • A lack of zinc can lead to night blindness. Beef, poultry, beans, and nuts are rich sources of zinc. Most people in the U.S. get plenty of it from their food.
  • A rare genetic disorder, retinitis pigmentosa, can seriously affect night vision. It typically affects young people, usually before age 30. Some people lose some or all of their sight.
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight is a risk factor for cataracts and poor night vision. Wear sunglasses when you’re out in the sun to help prevent this.
  • Lasik surgery complications, which are rare, can lead to night vision problems. Typical complaints include glare and halos around objects, which distort vision, especially at night.
  • Diabetes makes you more likely to have night vision problems. Over the years, high blood sugar damages the blood vessels and nerves in your eyes, which leads to a condition called retinopathy. Talk to your doctor if you have trouble seeing in low light, either indoors or outside.

Ironically, high beams, auxiliary lights, and fog lights meant to help you see better at night can put you at risk for an accident due to the glare you may experience when oncoming vehicles have these features.

When You See Symptoms Don’t Wait – We Can Help

The only way to make sure your vision is good enough for driving at night as you get older is to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor near you. If you do not have a doctor, Grady can help. If you need an eye doctor, call us at (404) 616-1000. We’ll arrange an appointment at a Primary Care Center near you – or Grady’s Eye Center. Doctors there can treat most conditions and provide access to Grady’s unparalleled medical specialty expertise.

Your life could depend on it.

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