As a rule, the recovery time is generally quite quick, and for some patients with smaller refractive errors, driving should be possible as soon as 24 hours after the procedure. However, everyone is different and it is important to note that the exact time it will take for you to be fit to drive cannot be guaranteed prior to surgery, as it is impossible to predict how quickly your eyes will recover. For more complicated corrections, recovery may take longer – your surgeon will discuss the corrective procedure that you will need to have and the likely recovery time required.
If you come to your appointment by car, you will need to get somebody else to drive you home after your laser eye surgery procedure. Although your vision may seem quite clear immediately after your surgery, some blurring is likely to occur for several hours post-surgery. Additionally, during your surgery anaesthetic eye drops are used and as these wear off it’s likely your eyes will be increasingly sensitive to light and be a little irritated. This will cause them to ‘water’ which, in turn, will impact your vision.
Furthermore, if you are an extremely nervous patient it may be the case you are given a mild sedative before your surgery begins which is likely to make you a little drowsy and will influence your reaction time, making driving dangerous.
We recommend you wear sunglasses when travelling home after surgery to prevent you from unintentionally rubbing, touching or bumping your eyes.
You will need to attend an aftercare appointment the following day, where your surgeon will examine your eyes and tell you whether or not you are now fit to drive. We do not recommend driving to this appointment. Depending on the quality of your vision, they may recommend waiting a further few days until your eyesight is stable before you get back behind the wheel and start driving after laser eye surgery.
The majority of patients are back to the legal driving standard when tested at this initial follow-up appointment, meaning they are able to drive the day after surgery. However, we advise you wait until you feel completely comfortable before resuming driving.
You may remember from your driving test that all drivers in the UK must be able to read a car number plate from a distance of 20 metres. The Gov.uk site has more information on driving eyesight rules and standards of vision for driving. During your aftercare appointment, your surgeon will check that your eyes are recovering normally and that your eyesight meets these minimum requirements. They will also let you know if you need to contact the DVLA to notify them of your surgery.
If you drive for a living, it is important to notify your employer to let them know you are undergoing laser eye surgery. They may have eye tests of their own that you must pass following the procedure, before you return to your role and start driving again after laser eye surgery.
OCL surgeons treat elite military personnel including naval and RAF aviators. It’s important that these patients check the guidance on uncorrected and corrected eyesight standards, as these vary according to different Royal Navy branches and are determined by RN medical staff.
Pilots should check the Civil Aviation Authority guidelines carefully when considering laser eye surgery as a corrective procedure.
Difficulty driving at night can be a temporary side-effect of laser eye surgery. Some people experience glare from bright headlights when driving after laser eye surgery in the dark. However, this is a normal symptom that in most cases will reduce after a few weeks or months.
You may wish to refrain from driving at night while these symptoms persist. Alternatively, eye drops may help to reduce the effects of the glare. If you are worried, or you are still experiencing problems driving at night a few months after your procedure, contact your surgeon for a check-up.