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How soon can you drive after cataract surgery?

woman in a car after having cataract surgery

In most cases, a patient can start driving again the day after they have cataract surgery. Because cataract surgery requires mild sedation, you won't be able to drive right after your procedure. You’ll need a trusted friend or family member to drive you home. 

Will my vision be good enough to drive without glasses or contacts?

Routine cataract surgery is one of the most common and successful surgeries performed today. For those without other eye diseases, the results are impressive. 

Around 96% of people with otherwise healthy eyes achieve a visual acuity of at least 20/40 after cataract surgery. That’s good enough to drive legally without corrective lenses.

When can I drive after cataract surgery?

Most patients can start driving again the day after cataract surgery. But not all patients heal at the same rate, and some may have more complicated surgeries than others. 

For instance, some patients may get surgery for both glaucoma and cataracts at the same time. In these cases, recovery can take longer and patients may have to wait longer to drive. 

It’s important to ask someone to drive you to your surgery and follow-up exam, where your doctor can check if your vision is stable enough to drive safely. Some people only need a day to recover and others need up to a week. 

Note: Cataract surgery does not aim to address or improve macular degeneration, so patients with AMD may have different expectations for post-op visual acuity. 

SEE RELATED: Cataract surgery complications

What are some reasons to wait to drive again after cataract surgery?

Even when your doctor says it’s safe to drive again, you should wait until you are completely comfortable before getting back behind the wheel. For instance, you may also want to consider the following:

Are you experiencing any swelling after surgery? If you feel your vision is still not as clear as you’d like, you may want to wait a little longer to start driving.

Do you need glasses or contact lenses to see clearly for both distance and near vision? If so, you may want to wait until you have new glasses. An updated prescription will make it easier to read road signs, your GPS and the gauges on your dashboard.

Are you sensitive to bright light? Light sensitivity is common after cataract surgery, though it is usually temporary. Darker sunglasses may help you feel more comfortable behind the wheel.

Does the difference in visual clarity between your eyes affect your depth perception? Most people have cataract surgery on one eye at a time, with the procedures scheduled a few weeks apart. Between surgeries, you’ll be able to see more clearly with your treated eye than with your untreated eye. 

For some people, this leads to difficulty with depth perception and the ability to judge how close or far away objects are. If this bothers you, you may not want to drive until both eyes are treated.

Can I use my old glasses for driving after cataract surgery?

Once you’ve undergone both “rounds” of cataract surgery, your visual acuity will typically be very similar across both eyes. But between procedures, one eye may still need corrective lenses. 

Some people are tempted to “fix” their glasses by removing the lens that covers the newly treated eye. However, this may not be advisable for driving. Always ask your doctor before trying something new (especially since you may break your glasses in the process). 

If the difference in clarity between your eyes is significant, it’s better not to drive. If the issue is too bothersome to ignore, ask your doctor for a new glasses prescription to use until you have your second cataract surgery

SEE RELATED: Will I need glasses after cataract surgery?

Can you drive after cataract surgery for one eye? Woodhams Eye Clinic. Accessed September 2021. 

Glaucoma surgery recovery: what you need to know. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed September 2021. 

How soon can I drive after cataract surgery? Austin Eye. September 2018.

How soon can you drive after undergoing cataract surgery? Byrd Eye Clinic. January 2017.

How long after cataract surgery can you drive? Neurosurgery Today. February 2021.

When can you drive after conventional or laser cataract surgery? Vision Eye Institute. January 2017.

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