Driving with Myasthenia Gravis
If you have myasthenia gravis (MG), you may be wondering how long you can keep driving. Driving represents independence and adulthood to most people living in the United States, so it is hard for many to give up. This is especially true if you live in an area that does not have handy public transportation.
How long you can continue to drive is like everything else with MG: It depends. Everyone’s MG is so different, which means there is no clear answer about you and driving. However, research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that people with neurological conditions like MG are much more likely to be involved in a crash than other drivers. This makes it vital that you adjust to your new abilities when behind the wheel.1
There are several ways to keep yourself and others safe when you are driving with myasthenia gravis, including:2,3
- Rest your eyes before starting your trip
- Wear sunglasses to reduce glare
- Drive early in the day before you start getting tired
- Do not drive when you have double vision or weak neck muscles
- Do not drive if your arms or legs are too weak to handle the car safely
- If double vision or droopy eyelids start while you are driving, pull over and call for help
- Use tape to keep droopy eyelids open while driving
Because the symptoms and severity of MG often come and go, you may have days when these tips will not be enough. You may have to accept rides or use public transportation some days and not others.
Importance of eye exams
Your vision is key to remaining safe behind the driver’s wheel. When you have MG, it is especially important to get your eyes tested regularly. There are several reasons for this.
First, some of the drugs prescribed for myasthenia gravis increase your chances of developing cataracts and glaucoma. Next, dry eye is common in people with MG because of problems keeping the eyes shut while sleeping. Left untreated, dry eyes can cause several vision problems.4
You will probably know better than anyone what times of day work best for you and what triggers your weakness. This will help you schedule classes, work, and social activities at times of the day when you are strongest. It will also help you schedule naps or rest periods to boost your energy during important activities such as driving, cooking, or taking tests.
Signs it may not be safe to drive
There are things you and your loved ones can watch for that may be a sign it is time to stop driving. These signs include:5,6
- Other drivers seem to honk more
- You feel unsafe or have trouble controlling the car
- Others comment on your poor parking or driving
- You find yourself having near-misses or getting into fender benders more often than usual
- You have trouble getting into or out of the car
Listen to the concerns of others
It can be hard for anyone to lose independence. However, if loved ones are trying to talk to you about your driving, try to listen and accept what they are telling you. Before giving up your keys, talk to your doctor about your ability to drive safely. You may be able to adjust your drug treatments to improve muscle strength.
The transition to not driving may be easier if you research your transportation options before the need arises. Check out local rideshares, delivery services, public transportation, and services for seniors and the disabled. A friend or neighbor may be willing to exchange rides for cooking or tutoring. It will be easier to give up driving if you know ahead of time that you will still be able to get the transportation you need to maintain your life.