Dry eye disease (DED) is growing in numbers, without age discrimination, as electronic devices with luminous screens are part of our daily routine. No matter our age, we are constantly on our phones, computers or tablets, and watching TV on small or large screens. It is not just computer screens which make our eyes drier and susceptible to dry eye disease. Driving can too.
Driving can cause DED because it requires a high level of concentration and that results in drivers blinking less. When a person blinks less than normal, they produce fewer tears to lubricate their eyes properly. It also means, their tears evaporate at a faster rate. Driving can cause intermittent blurred vision and can get worse in ambient environmental factors, as well as in certain weather conditions (humidity, wind, cold, dry or dusty) and air-conditioned/ central heating conditions.
The “impact of dry eye disease on visual performance while driving” study looked at twenty DED patients and how their performance was affected. It concluded that drivers with DED were visually impaired in specific situations – e.g. crossroad and roundabout approaches. DED drivers can be in discomfort and have vision impairment when driving. Another study, “Characteristics of symptoms experienced by persons with dry eye disease while driving in China”, had more to say. 87 dry eye patients participated in a driving experiment, which leads to a rate of 10.33% in accidents and near-accidents and a rate of 32.17% of missed targets (vehicles, pedestrians, traffic lights, and signals) totalled. The driving experience was also affected in certain driving conditions, such as nighttime (48%), haze (40%), air-conditioning hot air (31%) and air-conditioning cold air (12%).
It is important not to ignore your symptoms if you are experiencing dry eye and treat DED accordingly. Neglecting DED can lead to decreased leisure time, interference with work or missed work, job changes, lower productivity, lower self-esteem, depression, and increased medical costs. For driver’s, the risks are sufficiently higher as visual impairments may cause harm to pedestrians, passengers or the driver’s life due to bad habits and performance from having DED. This can be a constant irritant for drivers and reduce the overall quality of life.
For mild dry eye issues, use specialist eye drops alongside omega-3 supplements and regularly visit your eye doctor. For more severe dry eye, please consult your eye doctor immediately. We recommend all drivers on the road have at least one bottle of eye drops in their car to ensure the safety of themselves and others, and to apply eye drops during stops and not when driving.