Health

Tips for Driving with Wet AMD

It’s one thing to have difficulty seeing a menu, but quite another to have trouble seeing a stop sign. When this happens, many people with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) realize they need to stop driving.

Indeed, a study found that older people who gave up driving often did so because of vision problems, such as wet AMD or cataracts.

The trouble is, losing your ability to drive can have negative consequences on your health. People who stop driving are at risk of social isolation and depression, according to the same study.

If you think your vision is limited in any way, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor, who can tell you whether you’re able to keep driving. “People are very good at limiting their driving based on their visual impairment,” says Bryce St. Clair, an optometrist and instructor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

If you are able to stay on the road, here are a few ways to safe.

1. Stick to Familiar Roads

It’s easier to navigate roads you know well. If you aren’t as familiar with a route, look it up in advance with an app like Google Maps, to get an idea of what to expect.

2. Give Yourself Some Room

Slow down and leave some extra space between your car and the vehicle in front of you. That way, you’ll have more time to react if a car ahead has to brake suddenly.

3. Drive During the Daytime

During the day, it’s easier to see road signs, traffic signals, other cars, and pedestrians. If you have to drive at night, make sure your headlights are working properly, and stick to driving short distances on well-lit roads.

4. Stay Off the Roads During Bad Weather

Rain, snow, and fog can all lower road visibility, making it more difficult to drive.

5. Minimize Glare

Install anti-glare film on car mirrors to reduce headlight glare at night. An option for daytime is to wear anti-glare sunglasses, St. Clair suggests. (Bonus: If the sunglasses have UV protection, they’ll offer some protection from the sun, which can help keep wet AMD from progressing.) He recommends wearing yellow- or brown-tinted sunglasses, which can enhance contrast and provide a clearer image of your surroundings.

One caveat: Sometimes, having an object in front of your eyes — even sunglasses — can interfere with your vision, so you may want to practice wearing your shades off the road before you start driving with them on.

6. Listen to Your GPS

Even if you know where you’re going, you can always use your voice-activated GPS to help you judge when to make a turn or come to a stop.

7. Use an Assistive Device

Bioptic telescope glasses, which are like miniature binoculars or telescopes, attach to your normal glasses and can enlarge images, making them easier to see. One study found that drivers who used bioptics were no more likely to have a near collision than drivers with normal vision.

The catch is, you’ll have to be trained in how to use bioptics before you’re cleared to wear them. Moreover, not all states allow them. Talk to a low-vision specialist to learn more.

When to Stop Driving — and What to Do Instead

If you’re diagnosed with severe or progressive wet AMD in both eyes, you’ll likely have to stop driving — and it’s important to recognize when to stay off the road. “We have patients who really struggle to relinquish that freedom,” he says.

If you’re experiencing blind spots or having trouble seeing streetlights and traffic signs or judging distances, you should stop driving, according to Cleveland Clinic.

If you’ve had a near miss, that’s another sign to relinquish your keys. “I tell patients, ‘If you have close calls that you’re aware of, there were probably other close calls that you’re not aware of,’” says St. Clair.

Just because you have to stop driving doesn’t mean you have to rely on a family member or friend to take you everywhere. “We live in an era now where we have so many services available to get people from point A to point B,” says St. Clair. He recommends using public transportation, social transportation services, or rideshares, such as Uber and Lyft.

And last, keep seeing your eye doctor, who can continue to monitor your condition and evaluate whether it’s safe for you to drive. With medication and adaptive strategies, you may be able to stay behind the wheel for years to come.

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