At some point, you or a loved one will probably need to consider how cataracts affect your life: about 25 million Americans suffer from cataracts. While the doctors at Ophthalmic Associates of the Southern Tier can successfully restore your vision with cataract surgery, many choose to wait until their cataracts are severe before exploring this option. This means that we deal with many patients who are unsure of how their lives can change as their cataracts get worse.
Driving, in particular, can be difficult or impossible with cataracts, depending on how far along in their development they are. While cataracts usually come on slowly as you age, symptoms can change from mild to severe before you know it, blurring your vision and causing a range of other issues. Yes, you can drive during your early years with cataracts, but over time, the symptoms of cataracts will limit your abilities to drive safely.
What Are Cataracts?
Cataracts are marked by cloudy or blurry vision caused by issues in one or both of your eyes’ lenses. Several illnesses and injuries can cause them, but they usually develop as a result of natural aging.
Your lens, along with your cornea, helps focus light into your eyes, which is then interpreted into images. The lens itself is a flexible, transparent layer behind the pupil and cornea. Lens tissue can become less flexible or develop protein clumps naturally over time, which can give you cloudy, blurry, or unfocused vision.
How Do Cataracts Affect Vision?
Because cataracts develop over time, their symptoms can range from barely noticeable to visually impairing. While they’re most known for clouding or blurring vision, symptoms of cataracts can include:
- Cloudy and blurry vision
- Faded, yellow colors
- Worse night vision
- Worse contrast sensitivity
- Greater light sensitivity
- Issues handling glare
- Halos around lights
- Doubled vision
As your cataracts and their symptoms become worse, they also become harder to address. “Mature” cataracts are harder to remove and can lead to life-altering vision loss.
Can Cataracts Worsen Quickly?
Cataracts generally won’t get worse quickly; for most people, they develop over many years as they age. They become more difficult to remove the longer you have them, though, so having surgery early is the best response to a cataract diagnosis.
Certain factors like diabetes and eye injuries can make cataracts develop quickly, however. If you notice cataract symptoms, speak with one of the cataract surgeons at Ophthalmic Associates to diagnose the cause of your cataracts.
Can Cataracts Make You Unable to Drive?
You can drive a car during the early stages of cataracts, but for many, the later stages make driving impossible. If symptoms haven’t fully developed, your cataracts probably won’t be vision-impairing.
As your cataracts progress, however, your decreased ability to see in the dark and notice color contrast, coupled with an increased sensitivity to light and glare, will make driving at certain times of day more difficult, regardless of how blurry your vision has become. After enough time, it’s probable that your vision will be too poor for you to safely get behind the wheel.
Can You Legally Drive with Cataracts?
Getting diagnosed with cataracts alone won’t make you legally unfit to drive in the US. With that said, you are still expected to use your best judgment before getting behind the wheel. If you operate a vehicle with impaired vision, you’re legally responsible for any accident or damage that occurs.
You should take a driving vision test if you’re uncertain about your sight, but even then, remember that many vision tests don’t test for real-world situation. For instance, you may do fine reading black text on a white background, but that’s different from reading a road sign in the rain at night.
How Can You Drive Safely with Cataracts?
While your cataracts are developing, there are steps you can take to drive safely. Because cataracts can cause issues with contrast and light, choose times to drive where the sun, weather, and darkness of night won’t cause you any issues — mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and just after sundown in clear weather are best.
Also be sure to keep your car’s windows and lights clean. Wash your car’s windshield (inside and out), rearview mirrors, and headlights to give you the best vision and lighting possible.
You may want to consider a driver rehabilitation specialist. These professionals can help you adjust your driving habits to your new vision. However, this solution is only a stopgap while your cataracts worsen, and the services can be expensive.
Cataract Surgery and Driving
There is one major, simple, and effective solution to these driving concerns: have cataract surgery! At Ophthalmic Associates, we’ve found that the majority of our patients would rather handle their cataracts early before they have to contend with serious vision loss. We’ve been able to provide exceptional cataract surgery to over 25,000 patients across the region.
Our experienced doctors will take the time to get to know you and build your cataract surgery around your needs. After safely removing your natural lens, we’ll insert an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) of your choice. IOLs improve your vision and are immune to the causes of cataracts, which means you cannot get a cataract in an eye you’ve already had cataract surgery on.
Our cutting-edge equipment and methods mean that your surgery will be a quick and lifelong solution to your cataracts. And best of all: you can drive completely safely after a successful and life-changing cataract surgery.
Cataract Surgery with Ophthalmic Associates of the Southern Tier
Cataracts can be frustrating. Having to limit your travel capabilities is just one way that the impaired vision caused by cataracts can restrict your personal freedom. That’s why at Ophthalmic Associates, we want to make living cataract-free as easy and accessible as possible, allowing you to stay on the road and keep doing the things you love.
To learn more about our cataract surgery, or what sets us apart, call us at (607) 729-5016 or schedule an appointment online to find out how you can keep your eyes road-worthy for the rest of your life.