Cataracts and Driving Safely

As we age, our eyes undergo a number of changes. One common eye condition that affects older adults is cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in the eye, and they can cause a number of problems, including decreased vision and even blindness. One particularly important issue for older drivers is how cataracts affect driving. Here we will explore how cataracts can impact driving safety and what you can do to stay safe on the road.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in your eye. The cataract may form slowly over time, or it might happen suddenly as a result of eye trauma, medications, or changes due to diabetes. Clouded lenses can make driving more hazardous for older drivers because they interfere with their vision and also make it hard to see while driving at night or in poor weather conditions.

How do cataracts affect night driving?

Cataracts increase glare and reduce the sharpness of vision, causing the cataract patient to see halos around headlights or streetlights against a dark background. Drivers need to be aware that cataract patients may not be able to see them coming. Cataracts make it hard for cataract patients trying to find their position within a lane and put themselves in danger by changing lanes at night without being very careful about surrounding vehicles.

How do cataracts affect day driving?

Cataracts can also affect day driving, as they reduce the contrast in colors and make it hard to see objects in bright sunlight because of increasing glare. This can be a particular problem for older drivers, as they may have a harder time adjusting to changing light conditions. Cataract patients should take extra care when driving during the day, and should try wearing polarized sunglasses to reduce glare being reflected from the windshield.

What cataract symptoms should older adults look out for?

Older drivers who have cataracts often experience problems with night driving. If you notice that you are having a hard time seeing at night, or that it is harder to see objects in the dark, then cataracts may be affecting your driving safety. If you have cataracts that you suspect are affecting your driving ability, then you should make an appointment with an optometrist as soon as possible to determine the extent of your cataracts and whether you are a candidate for cataract surgery.

What cataract treatment is available?

Changing your eyeglass prescription may improve your vision if you have early cataracts. In more advanced stages, prescription eyeglass changes won’t improve your vision and cataract surgery will be necessary.

Cataracts are usually treated with cataract surgery, in which the cloudy lens of your eye is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. The surgery typically takes about 20 minutes, and cataract patients often see better almost immediately following cataract surgery.

What can cataract patients do to be safer drivers?

Drivers with cataracts should drive conservatively and should avoid driving at night or in poor weather conditions. They should only drive during the day with their best eyeglass or contact lens prescription and appropriate sun wear. Cataract patients should also get regular eye exams because cataracts may increase over time, causing more vision problems and making cataract patients more likely to be in car accidents.