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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Night Blindness

By Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein  
Night blindness, the inability to see at night while having normal vision during the day, is a result of vitamin A deficiency. Not surprisingly, the problem became worse as the war progressed because more soldiers had had poor nutrition for a longer period of time. At the time some doctors observed an increase in night blindness when scurvy increased. This is logical because both are related to vitamin deficiency, although not the same vitamins.
Other doctors considered complaints of night blindness to be a form of malingering. It seemed particularly to be an excuse to get a furlough because night blindness tended to disappear at home where the soldiers ate a more balanced diet. Few soldiers were hospitalized for night blindness because they could function perfectly well to fight during the day. There were significant problems with night blindness among William T. Sherman’s Union troops during the Atlanta Campaign and also in Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
Excerpted from: The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine

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