Night Driving After 40 - Trouble Seeing at Night - Smart Vision Labs

When the sun sets, you don’t have to park the car in the garage if you are over 40. Yes, driving at night offers challenges for the older motorist, but with these eye care tips, you may be able to navigate the road more safely.

Decreasing Night Vision

As we age, our ability to see well in lower light deteriorates. This is an aspect of aging, but it can be addressed and minimized. The first step toward improving your vision at night is to determine the cause.

A quick look at the eye will reveal the role light plays in vision. Light enters the eyes through the pupils but must travel to the retina, which is at the back of the eye, in order for you to ‘see’ an image. The retina is made of rods and cones that convert the light energy into electrical energy that is sent to the brain. The rods can only process in black and white, and the cones can see detail but only in bright light.

The way that the light is taken into the eyes and processed determines if you may have trouble seeing clearly at night.

Pupils Don’t React As Well

As a normal part of the aging process, your pupils shrink and don’t dilate as well in the dark. The eyes function best when the pupils sense low light and enlarge to allow more light to enter and then travel to the retina. Without the right amount of light, the rods and the cones will not be able to ‘create’ an image for you to see clearly. For some older drivers, this is similar to the effect that wearing sunglasses at night would produce.

Some drivers benefit from special eyeglasses with anti-reflective coatings that can minimize the glare. Additionally, lenses that use wavefront diagnostic technology can give you sharper vision in all lighting conditions. A vision test and a talk with the eye doctor about these options is the first place to start.

Medical Conditions that Affect Night Driving

There are several health reasons that can give you poor night vision. Cataracts are at the top of the list because of how they decrease the amount of light that enters the eyes. The lenses of your eyes are right behind the pupil. As part of the aging process, the cells in the lenses grow and die which builds up debris that is protein-based. These small clumps may join together and form a cloud over part of the lens. The result is that less light is able to travel to the retina and the image that is produced will be cloudy.

If the cataract is small, your vision can be improved with prescription glasses, or by using brighter lighting or anti-glare lenses. Cataracts can be removed with surgery if they begin to negatively affect daily activities like driving or watching television.

Diabetes retinopathy can also cause poor night vision because this medical condition can damage the blood vessels in the retina. This condition can occur in people who have diabetes and a history of uncontrolled sugar levels. Managing diabetes and having regular vision tests can minimize the damage to the eyes.

The Right Way to Keep Night Driving

Everyone will age but aging does not have to end certain activities like driving at night. Preventative eye care, especially for people over 40, can help spot any potential problems and a treatment plan or prescription glasses can improve vision. You may not need to call a taxi if you are going out at night; perhaps you should call your eye doctor first.

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