Researchers have found that children who complain that they are afraid of the dark, may have night blindness, a diagnosis that can be easily missed. They said that parents who do not monitor their children's night time behaviours and who do not have a family history of visual problems may miss the rare form of the disease called stationary night blindness. A child with no visual problems obvious to the parents and who can see normally in well-lit conditions may not be able to see at all in the dark, even after adapting to dim lighting.
In the study, which appeared in the British Medical Journal, researchers described two girls with an inherited form of stationary night blindness, both of whom complained of being scared of the dark, had a history of bumping into things at night, and insisted curtains be drawn much earlier than other children would choose to. One girl also had a fear of shadows. After suggestion by the researchers to use and an intensity adjustable night light, carry a flashlight when going out at night, and parents draw the curtains before dusk to avoid fear of the darkness beyond the windows, fear of the dark was no longer evident in the girls. Within days, one girl was more confident and was sleeping through the night.