Driving after cataract surgery can be daunting, especially when trying to gauge the right time to get behind the wheel again. We know how important driving is to our patients; in this post, we’ll discuss the most frequently asked questions about driving safely after your treatment, be it day or night.
Can You Drive After Cataract Surgery?
Patients should not attempt to drive immediately after cataract surgery. Following the procedure, your vision will still be recovering, and you may experience temporary blurred vision. This blurriness is primarily a result of the medications used during the procedure and the eye’s natural response to surgery.
It’s also common practice for a protective eye dressing or shield to be placed over the treated eye immediately after surgery. This is done to safeguard the eye and aid in the healing process. With impaired vision and the eye dressing in place, driving following treatment is not recommended, as it can pose serious risks to your safety and the safety of others on the road.
We recommend that patients arrange for a family member or friend to pick them up after cataract surgery. They can provide the necessary assistance and ensure your safe journey home.
How Soon Can You Drive After Cataract Surgery?
Many patients are eager to resume driving as soon as possible. Safety, both on the road and post-surgery, is of the utmost importance. To ensure a smooth transition back to driving, it’s vital to meet the standard vision criteria established by the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA). These criteria typically include specific visual acuity and peripheral vision requirements.
To prioritise your safety, we recommend refraining from driving for at least 24 hours post-surgery to allow your vision to gradually clear and stabilise.
Keep the following timelines and suggestions in mind when planning your return to driving:
Immediate Post-Surgery your vision may be blurry. Please avoid driving during this initial phase for your safety and that of others on the road.
24 hours After Surgery you can consider driving again. This waiting period allows the effects of surgery and medications to subside, facilitating improved vision. However, ensure that you are comfortable with your eyesight before choosing to do so.
Consult With Your Surgeon as individual recovery times may vary based on the nature of the surgery and your unique circumstances. We encourage our patients to consult with their cataract surgeon, who will be able to assess your progress and provide personalised guidance on when it’s safe for you to resume driving.
For more recovery tips and recommendations, see our checklist and advice on what to do after cataract surgery.
Driving at Night After Cataract Surgery
As a prospective cataract patient, you may also be wondering how long after cataract surgery can you drive at night.
Night-time driving can be more challenging due to increased sensitivity to light and glare, especially during the initial stages of recovery. This heightened sensitivity to light can make night-time driving particularly uncomfortable and challenging. The eye’s natural lens, which is replaced during cataract surgery, plays a role in filtering and reducing the intensity of incoming light. Following surgery, the brain is getting used to the new artificial lens leading to increased sensitivity initially.
This temporary sensitivity to light can result in glare from headlights, streetlights, and other sources of illumination. It may also lead to difficulty adjusting to rapidly changing light conditions, such as when passing through tunnels or transitioning from well-lit areas to dark roads. These issues can potentially affect a patient’s ability to drive safely at night.
It is therefore recommended to wait and ensure you are feeling confident at daytime driving and ready before attempting night-time driving during the early stages of recovery.
Patients may need to wait at least one to two weeks or more before driving at night. The first few days are crucial for the eye to begin healing and exposing it to the potentially harsh conditions of night-time driving can hinder this process.
While this may sound daunting, this sensitivity to light and glare is only temporary and will naturally disappear as your eye recovers completely from your surgery.
It is important to avoid staring at bright lights for prolonged periods of time this will help your brain adapt to the new artificial lens faster.
Your Optegra consultant will discuss any concerns you may have about how soon you can drive at night after cataract surgery.
Do you Need to Tell DVLA if You Have Had Cataract Surgery?
Patients suffering from cataracts require a yearly eye test at their optometrists for monitoring. During these appointments, the optometrist will advise the patient if they do not meet driving standards. It is the patient’s responsibility to stop driving, inform the DVLA, and use alternative transport until they have had their cataracts treated.
Following cataract surgery, patients will have an eye test, during which they will be informed that they meet DVLA driving standards. Keep in mind that you could be fined up to £1,000 for non-disclosure of a medical condition. Learn more about the legal requirements for driving at the official UK government website.
Will my Car Insurance be Affected?
Cataract surgery alone should not directly result in an automatic increase in premiums. Car insurance premiums are typically determined by various factors, including driving history, the type of vehicle, location, age, and other risk-related factors. Your car insurance company will typically continue to cover you following your cataract surgery recovery. It is advisable to inform your car insurance company in advance of your treatment.
Can you Drive to your Follow-Up Appointment?
The purpose of your follow-up appointment is to evaluate the success of your cataract surgery recovery.
Part of the follow-up appointment will be to dilate the pupil of the eye, this will cause blurring of vision and light sensitivity and impact the patient’s ability to drive afterwards. Consequently, we advise patients not to drive themselves home after their follow-up appointment.
Will Cataract Surgery Improve my Driving?
Cataract surgery can often improve a person’s ability to drive safely, especially if their cataracts were significantly affecting their vision prior to treatment. Following surgery, drivers can benefit in the following ways:
Improved vision. Cataract surgery involves replacing the cloudy eye lens with a clear artificial intraocular lens (IOL). This typically results in clearer vision making it easier to read road signs, recognise hazards, and see other vehicles and pedestrians.
Reduced glare and sensitivity. Cataracts can increase sensitivity to glare from headlights, streetlights, and sunlight, which can be particularly challenging for night-time driving. Cataract surgery can significantly reduce this sensitivity to glare, improving your comfort and safety when driving in various lighting conditions.
Better depth perception. Cataracts can affect depth perception, making it difficult to judge distances accurately. After cataract surgery, many individuals experience improved depth perception, which is crucial for safe driving, especially when changing lanes or parking.
Enhanced colour vision. Cataracts can distort colour perception, making it challenging to distinguish between traffic signals and road signs. After surgery, colour vision often improves, helping drivers accurately identify and respond to traffic signals and road markings.
Remember, when it comes to driving after your treatment, safety is paramount. At Optegra, our cataract surgery success rates and patient satisfaction levels speak for themselves. In fact, 93% of Optegra cataract patients would happily recommend us to family or friends. This ensures you have the best possible chance of successful treatment and a swift recovery, allowing you to enjoy driving again as soon as safely possible.
What next? Get in Touch for Free, No-Obligation Advice.
At Optegra, we have carried out over 35,000 cataract procedures in the last year alone, with an impressive success rate of 99.6%. This means almost all patients can drive without problems following their treatment. Learn more about cataract surgery at Optegra or book a no-obligation, free consultation for expert help and advice.
By Author: Amir Hamid
Mr. Amir Hamid is a Clinical Lead for Vision Correction and an expert refractive surgeon, based in London.
Medically Reviewed Date: 12th September 2023