Driving with Glaucoma: What You Should Know

April 28th, 2020
senior driving car

Here’s everything you need to know about glaucoma, how it impacts your eyes, and whether or not you can still drive with this condition. 

It’s extremely important to be mindful of how our bodies change as we age, especially when it comes to our eyes. If you have glaucoma or know someone who does, you might have noticed that driving is a little harder than it used to be. How does glaucoma affect your eyes? Why does glaucoma make it more difficult to drive? If you have this serious eye condition, when should you stop driving? Here’s everything you need to know. 

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a serious eye condition that gradually damages the eye’s optic nerve, the nerve responsible for sending messages from your eyes to your brain and allowing you to see. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States — by 2050, over 19 million people over the age of 85 are expected to develop this disease. People over the age of 60, people with a family history of glaucoma, people with diabetes, African Americans, and people who take steroid medications are at greater risk for glaucoma.    

When there’s too much pressure in your eye, either from too much fluid or your eye’s inability to drain a normal amount of fluid, glaucoma develops. This condition is painless, except for a minor aching feeling in the eyes, and vision changes only appear in glaucoma’s late stages. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize they have it until vision is completely lost. Other symptoms include a gradual loss of peripheral vision, reduced visual acuity that cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts, and seeing halos around bright lights.

Glaucoma isn’t curable, but if diagnosed early enough, there are treatment options available to minimize vision loss. 

How Does Glaucoma Impact Driving?

People with glaucoma have a difficult time driving because they’re only able to see what’s in front of them, but safe driving requires a full visual field. Drivers with even mild to moderate cases of glaucoma often have trouble anticipating and responding to other drivers’ movements on the road, maintaining a safe speed while changing lanes, and staying within their lane on curved roads. 

Glaucoma also makes driving particularly difficult at night. A common symptom of glaucoma is seeing bright halos around lights, which can obstruct your vision when driving on busy highways at night. What’s more, glaring headlights in the dark can also trigger light sensitivity issues. 

If you think glaucoma is negatively affecting your driving or the driving of someone close to you, asking the following questions can help you make sure.

  • Do you have trouble merging lanes?
  • Does the glare from oncoming headlights hurt your eyes or make it difficult to see the road?
  • Do other cars “come out of nowhere”?
  • Have you had any accidents or near-miss accidents recently?
  • Are you having a harder time driving at night than ever before?
  • Are your friends and family worried about your driving?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, it might be time to get out from behind the wheel.

Talk to the Experts

Ultimately, it’s up to state law and licensed eyecare professionals to decide whether or not someone with glaucoma should drive. For example, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DLVA) requirements in the United Kingdom state that people with glaucoma in both eyes must report their condition to the DLVA and take a medical exam to see if they’re fit to drive. DMV requirements for glaucoma, cataracts, and other conditions that critically impact vision will vary by state.

Many glaucoma patients want to keep driving as long as possible because it gives them a sense of freedom and independence, but it’s just not safe — for them or other drivers on the road. If you’ve noticed changes in your vision lately and think you might have glaucoma, contact the specialists at Kleiman Evangelista today. You can get tested for glaucoma and receive more information about how to stay safe with aging eyes.   

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