Glaucoma-related vision loss may increase risk for auto accidents

November 11, 2012, American Academy of Ophthalmology

The first study to compare accident rates for drivers who have advanced glaucoma − an eye disease that affects peripheral vision − with normal-vision drivers, found that the glaucoma group had about twice as many accidents. This study, which was conducted in Japan using a driving simulator, suggests that potential drivers should pass a visual field test to ensure adequate peripheral vision before a license is granted or renewed. The research is being presented today at the 116th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, jointly conducted this year with the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology.

Glaucoma, which is an age-related , can partially or severely restrict a person's peripheral vision, without damaging their or visual acuity. (Click here to see how glaucoma can affect vision.) This means that many people who have the disease would be able to pass the only now required for a driver's license in most countries, known as the visual acuity test. Drivers need good peripheral vision in order to assess and keep up with the flow of traffic, stay in the proper lane, and detect stop lights, pedestrians, vehicles and other obstacles.

In this study, which was conducted at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, in Sendai, Japan, two groups of 36 people each were tested using a driving simulator. People in group one had advanced glaucoma and those in group two had normal vision. The groups were matched for age, driving experience and other characteristics. The most common accident scenario for both the glaucoma and normal-vision groups was when a child, car, or other object suddenly entered the driver's path from the side. The glaucoma group, however, had more than twice as many collisions as the normal-vision group.

Glaucoma affects more than 2.7 million Americans age 40 and older. It is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. If untreated, glaucoma reduces and eventually causes blindness by damaging the optic nerve. This essential nerve sends signals from the retina—a layer of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye—to the brain, where these signals are interpreted as the images people see. Only half of the people who have glaucoma are aware of it , since the disease is painless and vision loss is very gradual.

As populations grow older worldwide, health officials are exploring measures that will ensure safety on the roads. For instance, in the United States., visual field requirements vary from state to state with 12 of the 51 jurisdictions restricting licenses for those with visual impairments. Some states or territories require the installation of additional mirrors on the vehicles of these drivers.

"To help ensure everyone's safety on our roadways, we would like to create mandatory vision testing guidelines for glaucoma patients," said Shiho Kunimatsu-Sanuki, M.D., lead researcher on the study. "We now know that integrating the visual field test into the requirements for a driver's license could save lives."

With proper medical care, many people with glaucoma can maintain a level of vision that would enable safe driving. The recommends that everyone have a complete eye exam at age 40, so that and other age-related eye diseases can be diagnosed and treated early to minimize loss.

Explore further: National study finds reduced glaucoma risk in patients who take statins

Related Stories

National study finds reduced glaucoma risk in patients who take statins

October 1, 2012
People who take statins to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease are less likely to be diagnosed with the most common form of glaucoma, according to a nationwide study of more than 300,000 patients. A University of ...

Research identifies risk factors associated with progression of glaucoma

May 9, 2011
Elevated pressure inside the eye, cornea thinning, and visual field loss are all markers that glaucoma may progress, according to a report in the May issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

For some, glaucoma strikes at a young age

April 20, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Though only 15 when diagnosed with juvenile open-angle glaucoma, A.J. Esguerra said he's tried not to let the potentially devastating eye disease slow him down.

Recommended for you

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.