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Driving performance and Cataract

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Cataract surgery restores vision in majority of patients seamlessly. Many patients experience the wow factor after the surgery due to the enhanced colours and improved night vision. Some even go spectacle free. But can we put a value to the improvement? To find out, researchers in Australia used driving simulators. They found that the incidence of near misses and crashes reduced by 48% after cataract surgery.

Cataracts are a part of normal aging process. It appears gradually. Cataract may make you near sighted. Colors appear duller and glare from lights make it difficult to see or drive at night. It is estimated that by the age 80 years, 50% of people will develop visually significant cataracts.

Cataract surgery replaces the cloudy lens with an artificial lens. With the current technology and skill, the surgery is low-risk, fast and effective. Being an elective surgery, not everyone has surgery right away. The decision is with the patient usually based on how much the cataract is interfering with daily life activities. Ophthalmologists operate on one eye at a time, starting with the eye with the denser cataract and lesser vision. If surgery is successful and vision improves substantially, sometimes surgery in the second eye is forgone or delayed. This is a routine finding in setups where there is a considerable waiting time or financial implication. However, the surgery for the second eye is when the patient gets the best benefit. Depth perception is improved, vision is crisper, making reading and driving easier.

To quote American Academy of Ophthalmology proceedings, “To better understand the true benefit of cataract surgery to patients’ quality of life, Jonathon Ng, MD, and his colleagues at the University of Western Australia, tested the driving performance of 44 patients before they had cataract surgery. The driving simulator assessed a variety of variables: adjusted speed limits, traffic densities, uncontrolled intersections and pedestrian crossings. Patients were put through the driving simulator again after their first surgery and then again after their second eye surgery. After the first, near misses and crashes decreased by 35 percent; after the second surgery, the number fell to 48 percent.”

Although measured visual acuity based on chart measurements is an important method to assess a person’s fitness to drive, it’s not enough. The quality of vision is also an important indicator. Improved contrast sensitivity, colour perception, depth perception and better night vision improves drivers’ safety on the road.

Some things to consider, when considering cataract surgery:

  • Can you see to safety do your job and to drive?
  • Do you have problems reading or watching TV?
  • Is it difficult to cook, shop, climb stairs or take medications?
  • Does vision problem affect your independence?
  • Do bright lights make is harder to see?

Do you think you are finding it difficult to drive at night? Contact us now.

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