The thought of cataract surgery can be daunting for several reasons. Some people may be put off by the mere thought of any procedure performed on the eyes, while others are deterred by the cost. Still, others may have reservations about the cataract postsurgery period and how long they might be unable to participate in their usual daily activities, such as work and driving. If you’re wondering when can you drive after cataract surgery procedure, read this to find out what factors need to be taken into consideration.
Cataract Surgery in Brief
Cataract surgery is a common eye operation designed to remove the hazy, opaque lens of the eye (the cataract), replacing it with a clear artificial lens implant, known as an intraocular lens. In addition to removing the cloudy lens which had been blocking light from entering the eye, commonly, intraocular lenses may be calculated to correct according to your eye’s prescription. The result is a reduced dependency on glasses and contact lenses. This may apply to long-distance vision only or, in the case of multifocal intraocular lenses, both far and near vision.
Cataract surgery is performed under topical or local anaesthetic rather than a general anaesthetic, which contributes to a lower risk of complications during the procedure as well as shortening the post-operative recovery time. The ophthalmologist creates an incision in the front surface of the eye called the cornea, breaks the cataract into smaller pieces, and removes it from the eye, before inserting the intraocular lens implant.
As with any surgical procedure, there are several cataract postsurgery guidelines that the ophthalmologist will recommend in order to minimise your risk of complications and optimise your recovery after your cataract surgery. These include:
- avoiding strenuous activity
- keeping the eye area clean
- avoiding dusty, dirty environments
- using prescription eye drop medication
In addition to these instructions, on the day of your cataract operation, you will have been instructed to avoid driving and to arrange alternative transport home. So, when can you drive again after cataract surgery?
When Can You Drive After Cataract Surgery?
The answer to this question can depend on a number of considerations. In most cases, people feel well enough to drive 24 to 48 hours after their cataract surgery, however, some will heal faster or slower than others.
As a general guideline, it is a good idea to wait until your review appointment with your ophthalmologist before getting behind the wheel. During this appointment, your doctor will be able to measure and assess your vision to ensure you meet the local driving vision requirements, even if subjectively you already feel comfortable driving.
Immediately after your cataract operation, your vision will take some time to stabilise. To stabilise completely, it can take 4 to 6 weeks, however, most people will find their vision has improved enough to drive safely much sooner than that. As the intraocular lens implant settles in its position in the eye, and the corneal incision seals and heals over, your vision can remain slightly unclear. Many patients will also experience some soreness or grittiness in the eyes, as well as glare sensitivity, which can make driving uncomfortable.
Another consideration is whether having had a cataract removed in just one eye has caused a large difference in prescription between the eyes. Depending on the magnitude of the difference, this can be quite disorientating and may interfere with your depth perception.
Since the operated eye no longer needs a spectacle lens due to the intraocular implant but the other eye still does, this can cause a mismatch in the size and quality of the image each eye is receiving.
Some people will get around this by having an intraocular lens implant inserted in the other eye sooner rather than later, even if the cataract in that eye is not particularly advanced.
Doing so allows both eyes to be more balanced. In the interim, those experiencing disorientation from a large difference between the eyes after having one cataract removed should wait for the second operation to be completed before driving again.
While many surgeons will aim to fully correct the eye with the prescription built into the intraocular lens, occasionally there may some residual prescription that needs to be corrected with glasses or contacts. In addition to this, you may need a near vision prescription in order to see your dashboard or steering wheel controls clearly. As it can take some time to have these lenses made or ordered, you may need to hold off on driving until you receive them.
Although cataract surgery is associated with a relatively low risk of complications in the postoperative period, it is still possible to experience delayed healing or prolonged side effects. These include complications such as ongoing glare sensitivity or eye inflammation, which can impact your vision. Dry eye is also not an uncommon side effect of cataract removal, and in some cases can persist. These conditions have the potential to affect your ability to see well enough to drive safely.
Ultimately, the best person to answer when can you drive after cataract surgery is your ophthalmologist. Although you may feel comfortable soon after your operation, try to avoid driving until your vision and eyes have been given the all-clear by your eye doctor.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
15 things you need to know about cataract surgery
How soon can you drive after cataract surgery?
How soon can I drive after cataract surgery?