Fixing Cataracts Significantly Improves Driving Performance in Seniors

By Megan Brooks

October 19, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Having cataract surgery significantly improves driving performance among older adults, according to a new study.

Older drives are the fastest growing group of drivers. Cataract is a major cause of visual impairment, and one that is easily corrected by surgery. But people often delay having cataract surgery for a variety of reasons, Dr. Jonathon Ng of the University of Western Australia, Perth, noted during a presentation of the research on October 12 at the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) annual meeting in San Francisco.

To gauge the benefit of cataract surgery on driving ability, he and his colleagues used a driving simulator to test vision before and after cataract surgery in 44 adults (mean age, 73; 52% male).

The driving simulator assessed a variety of variables: adjusted speed limits, traffic densities, uncontrolled intersections and pedestrian crossings. Patients were put through the driving simulator again after their first surgery and then again after their second eye surgery.

Near misses and crashes fell by 35% following the first cataract surgery and by 48% after the second, Drivers were more speed compliant and made fewer lane deviations after getting their cataracts fixed, Dr. Ng reported.

"We were not surprised by the results as it was consistent with our earlier studies," he told Reuters Health by email. "We hope the results will prompt health care providers to refer drivers with cataract earlier for surgery when they start having visual problems and not relying on visual acuity alone."

"In Australia and other countries, people may often wait months to receive government-funded surgery after a cataract is diagnosed. These results highlight the importance of timely cataract surgery in maintaining safety and continued mobility and independence in older adult drivers," Dr. Ng added in a conference statement.


American Academy of Ophthalmology 2019.