When Can I Drive After Cataract Surgery?

Dr. Gary Foster – Fort Collins & Loveland, CO

How soon can I drive after cataract surgery

Driving After Cataract Surgery

Cataracts and driving are on the minds of many seniors. Fortunately, most of my patients can drive soon after cataract surgery.

The question of when to resume driving is an important one as many have cataract surgery specifically to improve their driving vision.

Deciding when it is safe in your specific case requires a review of a number of different factors and it is often a good idea to seek the opinion of your eye surgeon and family members to determine the proper time to return to driving.

No Driving the Day of Cataract Removal

The day of your cataract removal you will receive anesthesia so you will not be able to drive yourself home after your cataract removal procedure. A friend or family member will need to drive you home and stay with you for a while as you adjust.

No Cab Rides Home After Cataract Surgery

In the past, some would take a cab home, but recent regulations no longer allow this since the cab driver could not be anticipated to stay with you after dropping you off.  I know this doesn’t make much sense after a simple surgery with minimal sedation, but the government and credentialing agencies don’t work like that.  They treat all individuals coming home from surgery the same whether it was a long complicated surgery with general anesthetic or a quick procedure with light anesthetic like cataract removal.

Recovery After Cataract Removal Surgery

24 hours after your cataract removal the anesthetic is considered to be gone enough for you to accept responsibility for your actions.  If your vision is good enough to drive and you are not too light sensitive, you could resume driving.

When is My Vision Good Enough to Drive?

Technically, you can drive a car with only one eye that can pass the drivers license test.  From a purely visual perspective, if either your eyes can see adequately then you can drive.

Some will see great out of the eye that had surgery by the next morning while others will need several days or weeks for the swelling to subside for their best vision.  If you have problems with your eyes other than cataract, then these other problems could limit your final best vision after cataract removal.

Several additional considerations other than just vision should go into your decision about driving safety.

Glasses are the Wrong Prescription

Your old glasses may not be the correct prescription anymore.  Two to four weeks after the procedure, your eye doctor will change your glasses to match the needs of your new vision.

What do you do in the meantime?

Discuss this with your surgeon ahead of time so you will already have a plan.  If your old glasses are close to your new prescription then some just wear them until the new glasses are made. Some have good enough vision to go without glasses.

Others have the lens removed from the glasses frame for the eye that had the operation.  This allows them to see without glasses in the operated eye, but look through their glasses for the eye that hasn’t had surgery yet.   You get some curious stares from friends who notice one of your lens is missing, but it works well for many patients.

Some go without glasses for the eye that has had surgery, but wear a contact lens in the eye that has not had surgery yet.

Are the Two Eyes Working Together?

After having your first eye fixed with the operation, you could have a large difference between the two eyes.  This could create problems with depth perception.

If you experience this problem, it would be wise to delay driving until you adjust.  If this is particularly troubling, discuss potential options with your surgeon like wearing a contact lens in the un-operated eye to even the difference or doing the second eye surgery at an earlier date.

Are you Light Sensitive?

Some patients are more sensitive to light during the early healing period after cataract surgery.  We provide some wraparound sunglasses to our patients to help with this.  If you step outside with those sunglasses, but still feel sensitive to the light, it would be wise to delay driving until it is comfortable.

Recovery From Cataract Surgery

Most resume driving within a few days of cataract surgery though your individual drive time could vary.  If there is any question, please discuss your concerns with your eye surgeon.  Happy driving!

Cataracts and Driving

Trouble with driving, especially night driving, is one of the main reasons many of my patients choose to have cataract surgery.  It comes as no suprise that the timing of the restoration of driving after cataract surgery is so important to them.  We are committed to helping you with your cataract and driving and will work to make sure we get you on the road as soon as possible and safe with the understanding the good vision is just part of what makes for a good driver.

If I can answer any other questions, please schedule a time to meet with me or send me a note.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. how long after cateract removal can fly

  2. Ron Presnell says:

    Hello Dr. Foster,

    I am 76 years old. At age 10 my right eye was accidently cut by a piece of glass and since then the right eye sees only vague images and light. I have had normal (with glasses) vision in my left eye. However, recently my ophthalmologist told me I will eventually need cataract surgery on my left eye.

    I’m kind of anxious about this since, after cataract surgery on my left eye, I suppose I will be effectively blind for a while. No driving, reading, TV, or computer work until my left eye heals from the surgery. My question is: do you know about how long this healing should take?

    I live alone but my girlfriend has graciously offered to let me stay at her house until I can see again. This, I fervently hope, will be soon. Thank you for whatever information you can send me.

    Sincerely,

    Ron Presnell

    • Ron: I am sorry to hear about the troubles you have had with your right eye. Normally, I patch the operated eye for the first three hours with both a gauze patch and a protective eye shield. This prevents any vision in the operated eye during that time. In patients with only one good eye, I often leave the gauze patch off and only place a clear eye protector for those first three hours so they can briefly open the eye when necessary to see with their good eye. Either way, the patch is removed after three hours. The vision is often functional but rather blurry that first afternoon. The next day most have pretty good vision, though occasionally, it is blurry for a longer period of time if the cornea is swollen. If the cataract is easy to remove, there is usually not much swelling. Laser cataract surgery tends to cause less swelling. If glasses are needed to improve vision, then your best vision is not attained until you receive new glasses two to four weeks after surgery. Most can count on the vision in their fellow eye while the first eye heals if the recovery takes longer than normal. Fortunately, you can count on your fellowman (woman) while your only good eye heals.
      God Bless,
      Gary Foster

      • Ron Presnell says:

        Thank you so much for the helpful information, Dr. Foster. This gives me a much “clearer vision” of what to expect following my cataract surgery. Have a nice day.

        Ron Presnell

  3. Alyce Sartino says:

    This information is great. I’m 76, having surgery Sept. 10th , but recovering from sinus problems, and on Bactrim. Already cancelled the Aug. 27th . appt. Wanted to make a driving trip some days after
    surgery. Hope I can make this all happen. Thanks for the info

    • Ron Presnell says:

      Alyce,

      I hope your cataract surgery went well, as did mine. I could see normally (with a few floaters) immediately after the surgery. As I was being driven home the sharp images and vivid colors I saw made me wish I had not waited so long to have the surgery done. The next day I easily drove to my vision checkup. A week later another checkup found my one good eye vision to now be 20/20 and the floaters were gone.

      The only complication I’ve had is itching on the eyelid area caused by the Prednisolone Acetate drops I must continue to use for now along with Nevanac drops these two weeks later. But a small price to pay for such wonderful vision!

      Best wishes,
      Ron

  4. Hello all ! I will be having this surgery in both eyes soon and my question is, can I achieve 20/20 vision after the cataract surgery if I have astigmatism ? I have heard that some people no longer need glasses after cataract surgery but I don’t know about that with astigmatisms .
    Great for you all on your surgery !
    Arlene

    • Arlene:
      If your retina and cornea are healthy, you can achieve 20/20 vision after cataract surgery if your astigmatism is corrected. The astigmatism can be corrected by placing a toric IOL that corrects astigmatism, having LRI’s performed in the cornea to decrease astigmatism, or by wearing glasses or contact lenses that correct astigmatism. Ask your doctor which or these methods of astigmatism management will be best for you and your lifestyle. http://www.garyfostermd.com/toric-intraocular-lenses/
      God Bless with your surgery
      Gary Foster

  5. My husband is having one of his cataracts removed. He’s been told about all of the drops needed before and after the procedure. He has no idea how to do this even though I’m trying to teach him prior to the procedure and is being told he has to be very careful not to waste the drops. I work fulltime so I’m unable to be home to put drops in for him. What can happen if he misses or screws-up the drops?

    • Ellen:
      You could have him practice ahead of time with artificial tears to improve his accuracy with the drops. Poor accuracy would only be an issue if he runs out of drops very early in the post op period. This could require the he purchase more. If it is too soon, sometimes the insurance companies will not help with the second round, so the consequences are mostly financial.
      God Bless,
      Gary Foster

  6. I’ve been wearing contacts, left eye for closeup and right eye for distance…what if for my cataract surgery, I decide to have one eye fixed for close up, and the other for distance…how will this affect my driver’s license restriction when renewing?…

    • Great question Kieth:
      In most areas you only need 20/40 or better vision in one eye to qualify for a normal drivers license. If you attain this in your distance eye then you would qualify that part of the visual eye test for a drivers license.

      This is not the case for many seeking a commercial CDL license where it is common for them to require 20/40 vision in both eyes for that specialized type of a license. The same is true for airplane pilots. They are not allowed to fly with uncorrected monovision but must put on glasses to correct the near eye for distance when they fly.
      God Bless,
      Gary Foster