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HomeminewsWorld Glaucoma Week: Driving Awareness

World Glaucoma Week: Driving Awareness

Australia’s World Glaucoma Week ambassador for 2011 is racing driver and instructor, Ian Luff. Ian, who has raced everything from V8 supercars to trucks, around race circuits and in long distance rallies, has been helping Australians become better drivers for almost 40 years. He also pioneered a vision technique to improve reaction time.

On Tuesday 8 March, Ian will take to the Eastern Creek Dragway with all his driving skills intact – except his vision. Ian will attempt to complete a short driving course using ‘glaucoma glasses’ to simulate the markedly restricted visual field and low contrast of advanced glaucoma.

It’s very difficult to accurately simulate glaucomatous vision loss because of its insidious onset and the brain’s ‘completion’ phenomenon (where a scotoma is filled with visual information from the surrounding intact field). Unlike the glaucoma glasses, a true glaucoma scotoma also moves with the eye. To overcome this, the glasses have to remove the majority of the visual field.

Vision Tests for Drivers is Limited

Only visual acuity is formally tested for a general licence and it does not need to be great (6/12 is sufficient). However, peripheral field, motion detection and contrast sensitivity are also critical components of vision for driving. All these can be affected by glaucoma. Advanced glaucoma can have a devastating impact on driving ability even though visual acuity remains relatively normal.

There has been relatively little research on driving ability in glaucoma but two groups, one from the U.K. and one from Canada have compared driving behaviour in patients with glaucoma to normal.

There has been relatively little research on driving ability in glaucoma but two groups, one from the U.K. and one from Canada have compared driving behaviour in patients with glaucoma to normal. They found patterns of eye movements differed in advanced glaucoma and while overall skill levels were similar, those with advanced glaucoma had a higher risk of a critical driving incident. The best predictor of this seems to be the degree of binocular visual field loss1,2.

While World Glaucoma Week continues to focus on glaucoma family history, this year’s message will also emphasise the importance of regular eye checks for drivers, particularly if their driving is deteriorating or they have a glaucoma family history.

For further information, visit www.wgweek.net.

Dr. Paul Healey is a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Sydney and an ophthalmologist who specialises in glaucoma and cataract, diseases of the eye.

References:

1. Crabb DP, Smith ND, Rauscher FG, Chisholm CM, Barbur JL, et al. (2010) Exploring Eye Movements in Patients with Glaucoma When Viewing a Driving Scene. PLoS ONE 5(3): e9710. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009710

2. Haymes SA, LeBlanc RP, Nicolela MT, Chiasson LA, Chauhan BC Glaucoma and On-Road Driving Performance. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. July 2008 vol. 49 no. 7 3035-3041