After years of driving at night without care, have you suddenly found it harder to get behind the wheel once the sun sets? You’re not alone. Millions of Americans have issues with night vision.
Dr. Jennifer Andrews and the care team at Urban Eye Care can get to the bottom of what’s causing your trouble driving at night. As part of our comprehensive line of services, Dr. Andrews offers eye exams for patients in the Seattle, Washington, area.
While many issues can cause you to struggle with nighttime driving, we’ve gathered information about some of the most common. Read on to learn more.
Why you might have trouble driving at night
After age 40, many people notice that driving at night isn’t as carefree as it once was. But the reasons nighttime driving poses a challenge vary widely. Here’s a closer look at some of the top reasons you might be nervous about hitting the road at night:
1. You might have cataracts
The lenses of your eyes are normally clear. Cataracts cloud the lenses of your eyes and cause blurry vision and other symptoms, including trouble seeing at night. Cataracts typically appear around age 40 but don’t cause problems until after 60.
Some people develop cataracts earlier due to medications, lifestyle factors like smoking, injury, an underlying health condition like diabetes, or family history. In addition to difficulty seeing at night, the symptoms of cataracts include:
- Cloudy, blurry, or foggy vision
- Light sensitivity
- Seeing halos or bursts around lights (especially at night with oncoming headlights)
- Double vision
- Needing more light to read
- Sudden nearsightedness or frequent changes to lens prescriptions
If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms of cataracts, be sure to schedule an exam with Dr. Andrews and our team at Urban Eye Care. Cataracts are treatable, and once the issue is resolved your vision improves.
2. You’re nearsighted
Nearsighted people have more difficulty seeing longer distances in the dark — especially if their glasses or contact lens prescription isn’t strong enough. If night driving is giving you trouble and it’s been a while since you replaced your lenses, a new prescription may be all you need.
3. Your retinas are changing
Your retinas receive light and send signals to the brain where images are processed. They’re made up of two types of cells: cones and rods. Rods are responsible for black-and-white images and are a key part of being able to see at night.
Studies have found that we lose rods as we age. In fact, older adults may lose almost one-third of the rods in their eyes as compared to young, healthy adults. With this loss, seeing at night becomes more difficult.
4. Your pupils and irises are changing
You may only think about irises when you think about eye color. But your irises are actually muscles that control the size of your pupils. As you age, these muscles lose strength, causing your pupils to shrink about 2 millimeters between young adulthood and your senior years.
When your pupils are smaller, less light enters the eyes. You may not notice the difference during the day or in well-lit areas, but at night this difference in size is about the same as wearing sunglasses.
What to do if you have trouble driving at night
To help alleviate your issues with nighttime driving, it’s essential to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Dr. Andrews evaluates your eye health and vision to get to the bottom of your night vision issues.
With an accurate diagnosis, Dr. Andrews can customize a treatment plan for your needs, ensuring your eyes get the care they need and you can take to the wheel again without fear.