Q&A - Problems After a Trip to the Optometrist?

Q&A ImageFor the last ten to fifteen years I have had drops put into my eyes to dilate my pupils yearly. Many years ago I was advised to bring my sunglasses to the appointment with my optometrist and / or my ophthalmologist. Since then I always have my sunglasses with me for these appointments. Recently I was to have an appointment with my ophthalmologist and a staff person told me to bring a driver, because if I am driving after having my pupils dilated, I would be legally impaired. Is this specifically mentioned, or possibly alluded to in the Motor Vehicle Act?

Comments

Answer

If you are referring to impaired as if it were the same as being impaired by alcohol or drugs, then no, this is not the case. Your ability to see well enough to drive might be impaired by not being able to properly control the amount of light entering your eye. If you cannot see properly, you cannot drive properly. This would fall more into the category of driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway. It is not addressed specifically in the Motor Vehicle Act.

Of course, if your eye doctor tells you not to, there may be a very good reason behind it. I found a story about Dilated Driving on WebMD which says that for some of us, it may not be a bad thing at all, and for others it would be safer not to drive until the drops wore off. Problems are more likely in older drivers.

Effects of dilation can vary

There is a history of glaucoma in my family - my dad had it, and two of my siblings have it now.  This makes me a prime candidate for the disease, and it's important to identify the condition as early as possible so that it can be remedied.  (We should be thankful for modern medicine - and with a reference from your doctor, it won't cost you anything to see the specialists.)

So for many years now, I've been going to a local vision clinic for annual testing: three visits every spring or thereabouts to check visual acuity, visual field testing, and finally optical coherence tomography, which requires dilation.

The first time or two, I took my sunglasses as suggested, but the effect of the drops that dilate the pupils was sufficiently minor and short term that they didn't seem necessary.

Then came an occasion - perhaps due to more drops (perhaps eye blinked - note the clever pun) or a stronger dose, I have no idea, but when I walked out of there, even with my Raybans on, I could barely tolerate walking along the sidewalk while squinting to avoid the light and the pain from it.  Driving was out of the question, and it was fortunate that it was a work day so I had walked the three blocks from my office; when I got back there, I tried to work for a while on the computer (with the screen brightness turned down) then finally gave up and got someone to drive me home.

I haven't even considered driving after going through optical dilation since, even though the effects from subsequent visits haven't seemed so severe.  It's no great hardship to take a bus once in a while.

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