At night, people with astigmatism may see halos or streaks around lights. They may have distorted vision at night, making it difficult to drive.
Astigmatism is both a common and treatable eye condition that results in blurred vision or other forms of vision distortion. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, one in three people in the United States lives with astigmatism.
How Astigmatism Affects Seeing Lights at Night
One of the tell-tale symptoms of astigmatism is distortion when it comes to lights. In lieu of seeing anything close to a clear image, a person with astigmatism will generally see lights that appear to have streaks (streaky lights), halos, and blurriness.
A person who has astigmatism may see a halo or a starburst-like effect surrounding lights. This is especially true for street lamps and headlights, which can often make night driving significantly more challenging.
Individuals who have astigmatism often describe it as being far more challenging to focus at night than during the day. The primary cause of this effect is that the eye pupil will dilate in settings with low lighting, which allows additional light into the eye. With more light distributed throughout the eye, the issues associated with astigmatism, such as blurry vision, will be magnified.
More About Visual Effects Brought on by Astigmatism
Astigmatism can cause a variety of vision issues, many of which are also symptomatic of other vision problems, such as nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia). In addition to blurred vision, halos, and glares, astigmatism can result in the following visual issues:
- Eye strain: The eyes get tired after prolonged or intense use.
- Headaches: Symptoms include head pain and discomfort (in many cases related to migraines).
- Poor night vision: This manifests as compromised, low, or minimal vision during nighttime hours.
- Amblyopia: Also known as lazy eye, this involves poor or compromised vision in a single eye.
- Keratoconus: The cornea bulges at the center, rendering the cornea edges abnormally thin. This is also known as irregular astigmatism.
Tips for Driving at Night With Astigmatism
If your astigmatism affects your ability to drive at night, it’s best to simply avoid the activity altogether if you feel you can’t do it safely. If you have somewhat poorer vision at night due to your astigmatism, here are some tips to make it easier to drive at night:
Wear Anti-Reflective Glasses
Anti-reflective glasses can help to reduce glare at night related to astigmatism. These glasses minimize glare while allowing more light to pass through to the eyes. This can improve visibility at night.
Take Familiar Routes
Familiar routes allow you to focus more on driving safely and adhering to all traffic laws rather than navigating where you are going. It’s important to keep your eyes on the road at all times, particularly if you are not as comfortable driving at night as you are during the day.
If your glasses and/or contact lenses are not properly addressing the problems you experience related to astigmatism, visit your eye doctor, so they can update your prescription. In many cases, a stronger prescription may address the issues you’re facing.
Treat Other Eye Conditions
If you have multiple eye conditions that are affecting your vision, it’s important to get treatment for these problems, which will ultimately improve your vision overall as well as your night vision. For example, if you have cataracts, cataract surgery will remove cloudy lenses and replace them with artificial lenses that improve vision. If you maintain good eye health, you’ll better preserve your night vision, allowing you to continue driving at night.
Treatment Options for Astigmatism
In most cases, corrective lenses can effectively correct astigmatism. In addition to eyeglasses and/or contact lenses, you can talk to your eye doctor about these options to address astigmatism:
- LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis)
- Astigmatic keratotomy (a type of cornea surgery)
- Orthokeratology (reshaping the cornea with specialized contact lenses)
- PRK (photorefractive keratectomy, another type of laser eye surgery)
- Toric lens implants
Symptoms and characteristics of astigmatism may vary depending on certain biological factors, including age, overall eye health, as well as overall physical health.
If your astigmatism is causing disruptions in your daily life, make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible, so they can assess the situation. Once your astigmatism is corrected, it can greatly improve your ability to drive at night.
Eye Health Statistics. (2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Astigmatism. (December 2022). StatPearls.
Age- and Gender-Related Characteristics of Astigmatism in a Myopic Population. (October 2022). Frontiers in Medicine.
The Impact of Uncorrected Astigmatism on Night Driving Performance. (September 2019). Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics.
Correction of Radial Astigmatism Improves Peripheral Contrast Sensitivity. (December 2002). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
Last Updated April 5, 2023
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