Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Zaina Al-Mohtaseb gives insight on ways to prevent eye fatigue and get safely through road trips.

Preventing eye fatigue on long road trips

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Summer road trips can be fun adventures, but they almost always are as equally tiring. An expert at Baylor College of Medicine gives insight on ways to prevent eye fatigue and get safely through your planned trips.

“Anything that requires intense eye concentration such as reading, writing and driving can result in eye fatigue,” said Dr. Zaina Al-Mohtaseb, associate professor of ophthalmology at Baylor. “This especially happens when you are driving because you use and rely on your eyes by focusing on other cars around and looking at street signs.”

Glare from the sun also can make driving more difficult on the eyes. Driving at night also presents challenging visual conditions for drivers, including dim street lighting, oncoming headlight glare and the need to quickly adapt across a wide range of lighting levels, Al-Mohtaseb said.

“To lessen the strain on the eyes and to preserve your safety and effectiveness in driving, it is important to make sure the eyes are well rested and to make sure that a person always wears corrective eyewear if needed. It is always much safer and results in less strain if a person wears their corrective prescription when driving,” she said.

For drivers who wear glasses it is recommended that they are clean of smudges to prevent light scatter. Wearing contacts are only okay if they can be tolerated on a long drive. However, if a person suffers from dry eyes and the eyes are irritated, she says it will be more comfortable to wear glasses instead of contacts for long distances. In addition, she says not to aim the AC towards the eyes as it can increase dry eye symptoms.

“Driving long distances can result in worsening symptoms of dry eyes and allergic conjunctivitis and unmask undiagnosed eye disease,” Al-Mohtaseb said. Signs and symptoms of this include irritation, dryness, blurry vision and itching. Seeing an eye specialist and treating the underlying problem can help improve these symptoms.

When driving in the day, she says it is important to wear sunglasses for protection from UV light and suggests no-glare polarized glasses to minimize glare from objects or the road.

“Taking breaks from driving, especially long distances, and relaxing the eyes will reduce strain and fatigue. Even the simple task of driving down a winding road involves sophisticated visual gaze information and processing,” she said.

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