Driving after hemianopsia

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Note: This article was translated with DeepL and might therefore contain erroneous sections

Approximately 200,000 people in Germany suffer a stroke every year, and most of them continue to struggle with the consequences for a long time afterwards. About 10% of these people suffer from visual field defects (e.g. hemianopsia or visual neglect),which lead to reduced vision. If these cause a reduction of the angular range to less than 120 degrees, more than half of the visual field can no longer be perceived. Driving is therefore a danger to road traffic and is no longer permitted. However, in some cases, driving is still possible even with hemianopsia or can be allowed again if the field of vision improves again, e.g. with the support of saccade training. We explain here what you can do yourself to improve your situation.

➤ Are you still allowed to drive with a visual field defect?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question, because:

We therefore advise you to speak to a health professional first to clarify your individual situation and answer any unanswered questions.

My experience as an occupational therapist: driving thanks to hemianopsia therapy

In my many years of work as an occupational therapist, I have repeatedly worked with people who suffered from hemianopsia. The most common cause was a stroke, but there were also some specific cases where visual neglect occurred.

It is precisely the fact that they are no longer allowed to drive with this limitation that has troubled many. It is often less about the difficulty of getting from A to B, but more about the loss of flexibility, independence and personal freedom that comes with a driving ban for many. For older people in particular, this visual impairment often represents a major restriction on their independence.

As a therapist, I do not want to raise false expectations, but at the same time motivate the affected persons to work as persistently as possible on their rehabilitation. The reason for this is that regaining fitness to drive is often difficult due to legal regulations, but visual field training can help with this in some cases. Especially people with mild disorders have succeeded in regaining their driving licence with me, among other things, also through regular saccade training.

My advice: stay realistic & stick to training sessions.

During a driving test, the visual field is measured with perimetry. During this eye test, the eyes must not be moved. However, with compensatory visual field training, it is exactly these eye movements that are trained. Often patients notice an improvement in their visual performance in everyday life due to this training, but still do not pass the driving test.

The result is that many stroke patients are able to cope confidently in everyday life after hemianopsia therapy, but are often still not allowed to drive. Even those who regularly complete their visual field loss training should therefore be prepared for bad news. I would therefore advise you to ask yourself in advance whether driving is really as important to you as it seems or whether the risk of injuring other people in traffic is perhaps too great.

➤ My tip before starting hemianopsia therapy:

My recommendation: the saccade trainer for hemianopsia

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for regaining the ability to drive after a stroke. Many people are unable to drive again even after regular, extensive training. However, I have personally observed the most success when using the saccade trainer. This is because this innovative eye training with eye tracking can be individually adapted to one's own needs and thus specifically improve the field of vision and also the reaction. Varied exercises as well as the possibility to follow the progress directly ensure more fun and make sure that the person concerned stays on the ball in the long run. As an experienced occupational therapist, I am therefore of the opinion that saccade training is a chance to regain your driving licence.

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