Living with glaucoma means much more than just remembering to take your medication or visiting your ophthalmologist on a regular basis. Although glaucoma often has no symptoms in the early stages, you may notice symptoms as your condition progresses. Some of the first symptoms of glaucoma that you might experience are problems with glare, decreased contrast sensitivity or difficulty seeing at night. These symptoms are also common with early cataracts.
Unfortunately, these manifestations of glaucoma will make certain daily activities more challenging, such as driving a vehicle. Glare from headlights can be extremely distracting, and it can be alarming when you cannot see highway markers and street signs clearly after dusk.
Another symptom of glaucoma is peripheral vision loss, or limited visual field. Several studies show that people with peripheral vision loss may be slower to anticipate and respond to curves and changes in road conditions. Limited visual field also makes it more challenging for drivers to stay within their lane and match others’ speed when changing lanes. Interestingly, losing peripheral vision on the left side of the visual field is associated with more driving problems than losing peripheral vision on the right side.
The best way to keep you and everyone else on the road as safe as possible is to schedule comprehensive eye exams on a regular basis. By making routine appointments, you are committing to clear vision, healthy eyes and protecting the safety of other drivers. The Department of Motor Vehicles also has established regulations for all registered drivers. The DMV requires visual acuity of at least 20/40 and a horizontal field of vision, with both eyes open, of at least 120 degrees. Peripheral vision and visual acuity are often tested at the time you acquire your driver’s license and are tested again before each license renewal.
Having glaucoma does not mean you cannot enjoy the independence of driving. It does mean that you are responsible to yourself and to all other drivers to have your vision tested regularly. The interval between comprehensive eye exams will vary from individual to individual, so ask your ophthalmologist at the end of each appointment when you should return for your next appointment. If you are looking for a qualified ophthalmologist in your area, please consult our physician locator tool. One of our friendly eye care centers would be pleased to speak to you about the most recent innovations in glaucoma treatment (Source: Glaucoma.org).