For many people, driving a car brings an unparalleled feeling of freedom and independence. And for older adults, driving can also provide deep satisfaction and a sense of control over their lives. So, it makes sense that when diagnosed with cataracts, a frequent question patients ask is, “Can I still drive?”
Fortunately, in the early stages, most cataracts are small and have little effect on vision. It may be safe to drive for many years. But over time, cataracts do typically grow larger and they can make driving more difficult and less safe.
Understanding how cataracts can interfere with driving vision and what to do about it may help to ease any related worries.
Less Light Enters the Eye
When a cataract forms, it reduces the amount of light entering the the eye. This is why people with cataracts frequently complain of difficulties driving after dark.
Normally, light can pass easily through the eye’s lens, but a cataract clouds the lens and over time can cause symptoms like blurry vision, faded colors or even seeing double, all of which can make driving challenging.
Halos or Starbursts Around Lights
A cataract can cause light to scatter, resulting in the appearance of halos (rings) or starbursts around lights. Driving in bright sunlight can also be problematic because of glare and sensitivity to light.
It can be distracting and disorienting behind the wheel when halos or starbursts appear around oncoming headlights or streetlights. This inability to see clearly in the dark can make driving unsafe.
Another common visual complaint among those with cataracts is experiencing sensitivity to light or glare. Similar to seeing halos, light enters the eye and is scattered by the cataract, except while halos typically appear after dark, glare usually occurs in sunlight. When the sun reflects off of smooth, shiny surfaces like water, snow, or even a car windshield, that bright light enters the eye and gets dispersed, making it difficult to see clearly. The effects of glare can range from annoying to debilitating, depending on the size and location of the cataract.
What can I do when cataracts affect my driving?
In the early stages of cataracts, some simple strategies may make a difference. For example, cleaning the windshield (both inside and outside) and headlamps may help. It might also be possible to plan trips to avoid times when vision is most affected, for example not driving west into the setting sun, not driving during rainy conditions, or not driving after dark. Sunglasses and the car’s sun visor may help to lessen glare.
Your eye doctor may change your prescription and/or prescribe specialized lenses for your glasses or contacts that may also improve vision, and thus ability to drive safely. Eventually, however, when the cataract grows large enough, cataract surgery may be something to consider.
If your vision is making it difficult for you to drive, it’s time to call your eye doctor.
The IC-8 lens advantage
If you’ve been diagnosed with a cataract and your vision has started to impact your ability to enjoy everyday activities, including driving a car, talk to your doctor about cataract surgery. Be sure to discuss the best replacement lens option for you. Learn more about the IC-8 lens. The IC-8 lens offers advantages over traditional monofocal and multifocal intraocular lenses. It is designed to provide a natural range of vision from near to far, including mid-range vision needed to read a computer screen. With the IC-8 lens, one may achieve continuous and seamless vision at all distances.