FYI Daily

Older Drivers and Glaucoma

Last updated: Nov 13, 2012


Worried about a loved one behind the wheel? If he or she has glaucoma, you probably have added reason for your concern. A new study shows that drivers with advanced glaucoma, damage to the optic nerve that's a leading cause of blindness, have twice as many car accidents as normal-vision drivers.

Collisions were greatest when a child, car, or otehr object entered the car's path from the side. The study (done with a driving simulator) raises the concern that drivers renewing or receiving a license should have a visual field test to ensure their peripheral vision. Peripheral (side) vision is impaired in people with glaucoma.

The Japanese study, done at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Sendai, was presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting.

What might this mean for you?

  • Make sure your loved one's vision care is up to date. Glaucoma is a serious health issue. More than 2.7 million Americans over 40 have it. But only half of those who have it even know it, because it's painless and because the associated vision loss is so gradual!

  • Convey vision concerns to your loved one's doctor, especially if you're already concerned abour driving. The Japanese researchers behind the glaucoma study hope this work advances manadatory vision testing for all, but right now in the U.S., vision tests for driving vary from state to state. See's state-by-state driving law finder.

  • Learn the signs of an unsafe older driver and how to best assess an older driver whom you're concerned about.

  • Consider a diagnosis of glaucoma a useful tool in getting a dangerous driver off the road. Sometimes a having a medical diagnosis, such as glaucoma or dementia, and an explanation of the associated dangers, is enough to encourage an iffy driver to give up the keys. A caregiver and/or adult child can play a big role in helping to ease the transition from driving, especially when you can problem-solve together to help the person continue to get around. Brush up on how to have this difficult conversation in a respectful and constructive way.

  • Don't overlook your own vision health as a caregiver. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a baseline eye exam for everyone at age 40. Many eye conditions are progressive, and highly treatable if caught early.