Dizziness after Driving Long Distance
Experiencing dizziness after driving for a long distance is a symptom of a condition called as vertical heterophoria. One may experience dizziness while a car passes by or simply while driving for a long distance. Besides this, they may also have difficulty stopping at a traffic light; they may feel that the car is moving backward even with the brakes engaged.
Vertical heterophoria is a medical condition characterised by binocular vision dysfunction which results from malalignment in the eyes which in turn causes each eye to see an image at different level. The same image may be slightly higher in one eye and slightly lower in the other eye. This unevenness forces the muscles of the eyes to work harder to process and send a single image to the brain. After a while, the ocular muscles or the eye muscles feels strained and fatigued which is reciprocated as dizziness and light-headedness.
Causes of Dizziness after Driving Long Distance
The most probable cause of dizziness after driving long distance or vertical heterophoria is physical defect in the eye, where one eye is higher than the other. This may be due to genetic inheritance or due to a history of head injury in the past.
Associated Symptoms of Vertical Heterophoria Other Than Dizziness
Besides feeling dizzy while driving, patients suffering from vertical heterophoria may experience other symptoms as well which includes:
- Feeling of disorientation, stress and anxiety while driving.
- Constant fear of putting their own or other’s life in danger while driving
- Motion sickness
- Feeling of visualizing moving objects in the peripheral vision which are actually stationery
- Blurred vision (distant or neat vision)
- Double vision
- Sensitivity to bright light especially traffic lights
- Sensitivity to sudden glares
- Poor perception of depth.
Other symptoms that may be associated with feeling dizzy while driving, but not directly experienced while driving includes:
Sleep Issues: Patients suffering from dizziness after driving long distance often have difficulty while sleeping. They have disrupted sleep and are often aware of their own eye movements while sleeping causing dizziness. They usually sleep well in dark rooms as light seen through closed eyes triggers visual vertigo.
Headache: These patients have frequent episodes of headache with discomfort with eye movements. There is a constant feeling of heaviness/pressure in the crown of the head. This is accompanied by neck and shoulder pain which worsens while tilting or turning the head. Headache can also be accompanied by jaw pain.
Anxiety: The patients often feel uncomfortable in spaces with high ceilings or crowded places. Large crowd or too many faces creates a stimulus that triggers vertigo.
Sinus Problems: Straining of eye muscles often causes pain and discomfort in the sinus present above and below the eyes.
Diagnosis and Management of Dizziness after Driving Long Distance
The symptom of feeling dizzy after driving long distance often overlaps with other condition and thus commonly misdiagnosed (such as general anxiety, agoraphobia, migraine or vertigo). The root cause of the condition, i.e. strained and fatigued eye muscles, is not identified and thus the condition is not resolved. If the above mentioned symptoms are felt, it is advised to consult a neuro-visual specialist for further treatment. An in depth case history is obtained followed by few tests. Special tests are carried to study the malalignment in eyes.
Treatment includes prescribing special aligning prismatic lenses. These special lenses help the maligned eyes to visualize single image rather than 2 uneven images. This helps is avoiding excessing strain in the ocular muscles thus eliminating dizziness while driving.
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