As I entered my teen years, I was so excited to start driving. As expected, I loved the freedom it made me feel. As I started driving more often at night however, I realized I didn’t like it so much. I sometimes had a harder time seeing. It felt like the lights from oncoming traffic would blur and make it harder for me to see the road I was driving on. This situation gave me much fear because it was a safety hazard. Fortunately, my problem of not being able to see well at night was just caused by the contacts that I had in. However, others have this same issue, but are not always able to solve it so easily.
Night blindness, also called Nyctalopia, is the inability to see well at night or in dim light. While this doesn’t actually cause complete blindness, it can make it very difficult for people with Nyctalopia to have full functionality at night, especially when it comes to driving and other activities that require full vision use. It can cause blurry vision and other visual issues while in the dark. While vision at night can be affected greatly, day time vision is unimpaired.
So, why does this happen? The main cells associated with Nyctalopia are the rod cells, which is a photoreceptor cell in the retina that is connected to the brain through the optic nerve. As described in the research article titled “Physiology, Night Vision,” “The retina is located in the posterior portion of the eye and is the sensory component of the organ. The retina consists of specialized nerve cells that receive and process light energy and relay generated action potentials via the optic nerve to the brain” (Mehra 2020). There are two different photoreceptors that make up the retina, rods and cones, which then convert light to neural impulses. Then, “Neural activation progresses primarily to the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus as well as the visual association and processing areas of the brain” (Mehra 2020). In simpler terms, the retina takes in visuals and organizes this information before sending it to the optic nerve. This process is what allows us to be able to see. When one is exposed to light, retinal is transformed into all-trans-retinal and cation channels are opened. However, when there is no light or very dim light, the rods in the retina are reversed, in a sense, and the cation channels close. When exposed to light again, the channels will reopen. The simplest way to describe this process is that one’s eyes cannot adjust once they are exposed to dim lighting or no lighting at all, which results in night blindness.
Night blindness can be caused by several different things. Eye conditions that can cause it include cataracts, retinitis pigmentosa, and Usher Syndrome. There are many other factors that can lead to Nyctalopia that may not be so obvious as well. These include things like Vitamin A deficiency, diabetes, and even refractive surgeries, which are supposed to help one’s vision but can sometimes cause night blindness because it changes the way the eye takes in light since there is a change in the shape of the cornea. Because there are so many different factors that could lead to Nyctalopia, there is not one specific treatment. Instead, there are different treatments for each different cause, including prescriptions and surgeries.
While Nyctalopia is very unfortunate and may prevent people that have it from doing some things, such as driving at night, it can also provide a new way of looking at things. When there is a different way of viewing something, it is normally found to be interesting and worthwhile by others. Because of this, night blindness can make some beautiful art. For instance, there are several findings that lead people today to believe certain artists of the past had different eye conditions, including night blindness. One example that we could be led to believe is an example of night blindness is the painting called The Boulevard Montmartre at Night by Camille Pissarro. As you can see in the painting, the view of the boulevard looks quite blurry in the dark and gives a pretty accurate perception of what some people with Nyctalopia actually see. The lights appear pretty fuzzy and it is hard to even depict what some of the smaller objects along the street are. It isn’t as bad as my view was when I was driving with bad contacts in, but it definitely makes me remember that experience. I can’t imagine what it would be like to deal with night blindness every night. Art, such as this painting, is not only enjoyable to look at, but useful in making us knowledgeable about what others with certain conditions may experience.
Overall, the painting gives us a glimpse into what people with Nyctalopia may experience each night. While it may seem as though there are several limits to having night blindness, I really like that there is a positive outlook on it when it comes to the art it can create.
File:Camille pissarro, the boulevard Montmartre at night, 1897.Jpg. Wikimedia.org. [accessed 2021Apr 27]. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Camille_Pissarro,_The_Boulevard_Montmartre_at_Night,_1897.jpg&oldid=548504570.
Free images – SnappyGoat.Com- bestof:Bokeh+night+lights+blurry+orbs. Snappygoat.com. [accessed 2021b Apr 28]. http://snappygoat.com/s/?q=bestof%3Abokeh%2Bnight%2Blights%2Bblurry%2Borbs.
Mehra D, Le PH. 2020. Physiology, Night Vision. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.
Russ. 2020 Oct 21. What causes night blindness? Optometrists.org. [accessed 2021 Apr 28]. http://www.optometrists.org/general-practice-optometry/what-causes-night-blindness/.
What is the retina? 2015 May 19. Vmrinstitute.com. [accessed 2021 May 3]. https://www.vmrinstitute.com/what-is-the-retina/.