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Cataracts and Driving: Navigating the Road to Clear Vision

What are cataracts?

Cataracts typically occur from a breakdown in proteins in the lens of the eye’s, changing it from transparent to cloudy. Vision may become dull and blurry; you may develop a greater sensitivity to light and find your overall eye health deteriorating at an accelerated rate. They are often age-related and easily treatable with corrective procedures.

If left untreated, a cataract can progress to cover more and more of your lens, leading to severe visual damage and eventually blindness. Prolonged vision impairment is also associated with age-related cognitive declines such as dementia and statistically causes more accidents*1. Treating cataracts early is strongly advised.

There are a range of everyday activities that become more difficult or dangerous with the onset of cataracts: driving is the most notable for many and can have a significant impact on a person’s sense of independence and confidence.

Can you drive with cataracts?

The simple answer is yes; you can drive with cataracts, subject to this being confirmed by your optometrist. However, for those with advanced cataracts, cataracts in both eyes or sensitivity to light, the answer can be more complicated and potentially the answer would therefore be a no.

At all times you must still adhere closely to the visual standards of driving prescribed by the DVLA.

They ask that you:

• can read a number plate from 20 metres away

• have no double vision

• have a normal field of vision in at least one eye 

Those with cataracts are four times more likely to report difficulty with challenging driving situations, and those who report driving difficulty are two times more likely to reduce their driving exposure.*2 You may notice your vision is affected by the glare of oncoming vehicle lights or bright sunshine which can impact visibility when driving, increasing the risk of road accidents for both you and others. It is important that you research and report any changes to your vision and take the appropriate measures to mitigate any risk.

How do you treat cataracts?

Due to the nature of cataracts, visual correction such as glasses will eventually become ineffective – leaving surgery as the only viable solution to treat a cataract.

Thankfully, cataract surgery is the most common operation performed in the UK and Optical Express performs more private pay premium cataract procedures each year of life than any other provider does. In fact, today, Optical Express performs more private lens replacement procedures than all other providers in the UK put together.

Treating a cataract is a quick procedure with minimal discomfort, typically lasting around 15 minutes and conducted under local anaesthesia. The affected natural lens is removed and replaced with a synthetic and most importantly clear lens, that will restore your vision. 

Can you drive after cataract surgery?

You should not drive immediately following cataract surgery. Right after your procedure, it's crucial to steer clear of any strenuous activities. It's best to arrange transportation home in advance, preferably with a friend or family member who can assist you indoors and ensure your comfort upon arrival.

The duration of time you should refrain from driving post-surgery varies based on several factors.

Since vision typically improves rapidly, you'll probably be able to resume driving within a few days following the procedure, as is the case with the vast majority of patients who have this procedure. However, there may be a temporary sensitivity to light whilst your eyes adjust to the new artificial lens, it is recommended you wait until you are visually confident until you return to driving at night. Your optometrist will provide further guidance on this matter during your initial aftercare appointment. 

Care, Cataracts & Cars 

Getting behind the wheel of a car can become complicated when it involves cataracts. They can significantly impact and reduce the quality of your vision, making driving difficult and often unsafe.

Stephen Hannan, Clinical Services Director at Optical Express says “If you leave cataracts untreated, the consequences can be detrimental and lead to permanent vision loss. With lens replacement surgery you can prevent cataracts from dictating the quality of your vision and life; giving you the ability to navigate the road ahead. Early intervention allows for the best outcomes, reducing the associated risks. Today’s lenses are fantastic and lead to the vast majority of patients reporting an improved quality of life.”

Don't let cataracts dim your independence. Schedule regular eye exams to monitor your vision and address any concerns early. Cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure that can restore your vision and get you back behind the wheel with confidence. 


*1 The Salisbury Eye Evaluation Study: Longitudinal associations between visual impairment and cognitive functioning, D Zheng et al 2018.

*2 The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 54, Issue 4, April 1999, M203-M211,

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