Glaucoma and Driving

I have glaucoma, and when I drive at night, I really have a tough time with the glare from oncoming headlights. Do you know of any ways to reduce this glare?

Glaucoma can cause a number of vision problems, such as loss of contrast sensitivity, problems with glare, and light sensitivity. Miotics, a class of glaucoma medications that constricts the pupil to increase fluid flow, can contribute to problems with glare as well.

Halogen lights, such as car headlights and fluorescent light fixtures, can sometimes cause uncomfortable glare. Some people with glaucoma also notice glare in stores with fluorescent lighting.

The best types of tinted lenses to block out glare from fluorescent lights are yellow, amber and brown. The darker the shade, the more glare will be blocked. However, everyone must experiment to see what works best under different circumstances. On a bright day, try using brown lenses for your glasses. For overcast days or at night, you can try using the lighter tints of yellow and amber.

You don't have to buy different pairs of glasses to take advantage of tinted lenses. There are tinted lenses that you can attach to your regular glasses and flip up and down, or lenses that drop behind your usual glasses and have side shields. Ask your eye care professional for more information about tinted lenses, which are often carried in eye doctors' offices or optical shops.

The key issue is to trust your judgment. If you are having trouble seeing at night, do not drive at night. Stay safe by adjusting your schedule so that you do most of your travel during the day. If you must go out at night, ask a friend or family member to be the driver.

I have some glaucoma side vision loss, and am finding it more and more difficult to drive. I’ve given up driving at night, but still get around during the day. My family thinks that I should consider giving up driving altogether. Frankly, I don’t want to give up being able to run errands and go grocery shopping. What factors should be considered when assessing one’s ability to drive?

Giving up driving is difficult to consider. We all value our independence and want to keep it as long as possible. However, it is important to know when you need to stop or when you need help, for the safety of yourself and others on the road.

Some warning signals that you want to consider:

  • Side vision loss. This may make it more difficult to see and react in time to avoid obstacles on the road, like other vehicles and pedestrians coming in from the side.
  • Sensitivity to lights. Are your eyes taking longer to adjust in bright sunlight or from headlight glare at night?
  • Blurred vision. This can make it harder to distinguish clear images and to see movement, such as passing cars or someone crossing the street.
  • Crashes or “near misses”. Even drivers with perfect vision can have accidents. But if you are involved in collisions that are clearly your fault or you experience near misses because of failure to notice obstacles on the road, you should re-evaluate your ability to be a safe driver.

If you are concerned that you may not be driving safely, there are several things you can do. Ask a family member or friend to drive with you and ask them to evaluate your situation honestly. Talk with your doctor about your concerns. Seek a driving evaluation from a certified driving specialist. Finally, be prepared to seriously consider the advice that these people offer you. Remember, you share the road with other people. You want to be able to travel around your community, but safety must be the primary concern.

There are resources to help you evaluate your driving skills and courses you can take to improve your driving skills. These include:

American Association of Retired Persons
Driver Safety Program
http://www.aarp.org/families/driver_safety/
800-424-3410

National Safety Council Online Defensive Driving Course
http://www.nscddconline.com
800-621-7619
Check your phone directory for the local chapter or call to find out about courses in your area.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Drivers 65 Plus: Test Your Own Performance.
Available as a booklet and as an online quiz:
http://www.aaafoundation.org
(202) 638-5944

--

Article by Buren Krahling, MD and Cynthia Owsley, PhD, MSPH.

Last reviewed on April 01, 2013

Was this helpful? Yes No