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Does age have to bring difficulty seeing at night?

Nieri Da Silva

Many people notice as they get older, they have a little more trouble seeing at night. But what causes this issue and can anything be done about it?

This week on “Take Care,” we interview Dr. Mark Blecher, an ophthalmologist, eye surgeon, and co-director of the Cataract Service and Primary Eye Care Service at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.

Unlike some species, the human eye uses visible light to see well, which is why our night vision is never as good as our day vision.

But as we get older, says Blecher, certain elements of the eye age and change, which causes us to struggle more to see at night as we hit our 40s and 50s.

Blecher says the usual reason our night vision deteriorates as we age is because of things going on with the pupil and the eye’s lens. To see well, he says four components of the eye all have to be working properly: the cornea, the lens, the retina and the optic nerve. If any one of those is not working well, you are going to have trouble seeing.

When people get older, their eyes tend to dilate more as a reaction to darkness. But that allows more aberrations into your vision, while smaller pupils eliminate a lot of blurriness. Larger pupils have a more difficult time producing a clear vision.

As we get older, our eyes’ lenses become more opaque and cataracts can develop. That also impacts night vision. If it gets to the point where cataract surgery is necessary, that improves overall vision, including the ability to see at night.

But, the first step, Blecher says, is always making sure that any refractive errors – whether caused by nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism – are corrected. Having the proper corrective lenses will help night vision.