Driving With Retinitis Pigmentosa

Driving With Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited eye disease that causes the cones and rods, the tiny light-sensing nerves in the retina, to slowly deteriorate. This results in progressively diminished vision. Some common symptoms of RP include night blindness, tunnel vision, sensitivity to light, seeing floaters or flashes, and peripheral vision loss.

Vision loss associated with RP can make it difficult to carry out every-day activities like driving. Those with RP may be wondering if anything can be done to prolong their ability to drive.

Fortunately, there is hope for patients with RP. While driving indefinitely may not be realistic, an IALVS low vision eye doctor can provide various low vision aids and specific glasses to maximize usable vision. This enables patients to safely operate a vehicle for longer than they normally could.

Can You Drive With Retinitis Pigmentosa?

Patients in the earlier stages of RP may be able to drive with little to no problem. Partially-sighted individuals may need the help of a low vision aid, such as bioptic telescopes, to allow them to maximize remaining vision so they can drive safely. These miniature telescopes are attached to regular eyeglasses, and once trained in using them, many people with low vision find that they are able to see well enough to drive again. Speak with an IALVS eye doctor to find out whether bioptic telescopes could work for you.

If you or a loved one is in the advanced stages of RP, driving is no longer safe. The loss of peripheral vision and night blindness make it difficult to navigate.

Each state and province has its own visual requirements for driving safely, so be sure to check if your vision meets those requirements. Some states have a “progressive restriction law,” which means the worse your vision, the more restrictive the driving regulations. For example, certain levels of vision loss would require you to only drive during the day, or within a certain distance from home.

When to Stop Driving

Our mission is to keep you functioning independently. In most cases of advanced RP, however, driving safely eventually becomes extremely challenging and sometimes impossible. You may need to stop driving if you notice that you’re getting into fender benders or frequently getting into car accidents within a short span of time. If you’re experiencing many “close calls” while on the road, you may need to stop driving.

Many RP patients first stop driving at night, since night blindness is one of the earliest symptoms.

Our Low Vision Doctors Can Help

Retinitis Pigmentosa can eventually make everyday tasks difficult. We understand your challenges and are here to help. We can provide various low vision aids and glasses to maximize usable vision so that you can continue doing the things you love for as long as possible. With the help of low vision aids, an IALVS low vision eye doctor can prolong your ability to drive and maintain independence to the maximum level possible.

If you or someone you know is experiencing vision loss due to RP, speak with an IALVS low vision eye doctor about how we can help enhance daily living. Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with RP or have been living with it for a while, there is always hope.