Driving

A forum to talk about the general challenges of daily life with MS.

Driving

Postby Punchy » Sun Apr 20, 2008 4:22 pm

Next weekend I am going to my first ever driver's ed class. Finally, at 28, I decided it's time to get 'er done.

But now I am terrified, because a month ago I had my second attack of vertigo in a year. I am so scared that it will happen again while I am driving. 8O

How do you guys handle it? Is having MS considered an impairment when driving? When I got my learner's license, I checked "no" on that part of the form. Now I wonder if that was a false statement.

I don't want to be robbed of this independence before I even get the chance :(
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Postby jimmylegs » Sun Apr 20, 2008 4:42 pm

hey good for you punchy! i think you should go for it.

when i had my dx attack and i couldn't feel anything i had to look down at the pedals to drive, and i was curious about whether i should be too, but in the end i just did it. *with* the post LP headache at full power, before i read up on all the pressure and healing details

i had some passing issues with information processing while driving last year, and in my appt the neuro said "i won't take your driver's license away today, but let me know if it gets worse"

so, that's how it works in my part of the world i guess. i don't think ms is an impairment until it really does impair you, if that makes any sense. is vertigo basically like suddenly feeling really dizzy?
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Re: Driving

Postby NHE » Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:05 pm

Next weekend I am going to my first ever driver's ed class. Finally, at 28, I decided it's time to get 'er done.

That's great!
But now I am terrified, because a month ago I had my second attack of vertigo in a year. I am so scared that it will happen again while I am driving.

Worrying about it will probably only make it worse. Get plenty of practice, parallel parking etc., as well as a good night's sleep the night before and go for it. I'm sure you'll do fine.
How do you guys handle it?

I have problems with sensitivity to bright headlights especially the day after I've taken Avonex. I just dim my rear view mirror and change the angle of my side mirror so that I need to move my head in order to see out of it. This keeps most of the bright headlights from bothering me. I also have problems with neuropathic pain in my right foot. However, so far I've been able to not let it bother me too much while I'm driving.
Is having MS considered an impairment when driving?

In my opinion, if you can pass the driver's test then it's not an impairment.

Good luck, NHE
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Postby Loobie » Mon Apr 21, 2008 3:55 am

Totally a call you will have to make yourself. If you feel you are, for real, a danger to yourself and others on the road, then you need to give it up. If you feel like you can get the job done safely by taking your time and helping yourself where you can (the mirror adjustments and things like that that NHE refers to) then you should be OK. If you have lost so much confidence that you feel tense behind the wheel and mentally not focused you should also consider not doing it.

I have strong feelings about driving and MS. It would just be tragic for one of us to cling so strongly to it that we don't see we've become a danger until we slam into something. At the same time, if you're are agonizing over it then you are going to be introducing your anxieties about being able to do it which will also be a distraction. If you feel safe, do it, if you don't, don't.

I am dizzy a great deal of the time, but I really don't know if it's vertigo or not. From what I hear vertigo and just dizziness are two different things. I'm not sure about the distintion, but my dizziness tends to reduce once I sit down. If vertigo does not reduce significantly by taking a seat, then I wouldn't drive with it. If it comes on rapidly enough that it would scare you if it happened behind the wheel, then think about pulling over when it happens. I know myself enough now that I won't take a cell phone call while driving anymore since I have had some of the information processing issues that Jimmylegs describes. So basically it's a totally "up to you" decision, but one that should not be made without serious thought if you are worried that your MS could make it unsafe.
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Postby AllyB » Tue Apr 22, 2008 12:46 pm

Hi Guys

From what I have read, dizziness and vertigo are different. Dizziness is feeling sort of light headed, whereas vertigo is where you actually see the world spinning, and apparently it always spins in a clockwise direction...

I would echo the others- only you know how you really feel and if you think your vertigo would occur frequently or unpredictably enough to interfere with driving - I know epileptics (in my country) are not allowed to drive for a certain amount of time following diagnosis and commencement of treatment, so that they can be attuned to their seizure pattern to make sure that they won't have a siezure behind the wheel (that the treatment has totally controlled the seizures). I am not of course saying that you have siezures, but I hope the comparison makes sense?

I also make some adjustments - I don't drive on a freeway as I have information processing problems too and more than 2 lanes of traffic going at high speeds...whew! Also can't drive at night because of the bright headlights from other cars - so much brighter when it is dark at night....Lastly, most cars here have a manual gear box (transmission) and I had to switch to an automatic because my right arm is weak and has muscle spasms, and my right hand is numb and can occasionally slip on the wheel if I don't concentrate on my grip (our cars are right hand drive, so this means that with an automatic transmission, my left hand is always on the steering wheel and my right hand is never in sole charge of steering my car!).
There is treatment for vertigo which you can try if your attackes are frequent - if they occur rarely and you get some kind of warning, even a couple of minutes, you can pull over to the side of the road and be safe.

But I would say you need to be in tune with how your vertigo occurs, and in the meantime, go for the licensing thing - hopefully you will be using it soon! I get what Lew is saying - we can't cling so hard to our independence that we endanger others or ourselves - so you know your abilities better than anyone else.
All the best.

Take care
Al
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Postby Punchy » Tue Apr 22, 2008 2:42 pm

Thanks so much guys.

I think that I will have to speak to the nurse at my clinic about the nature of vertigo. The two times I have experienced it, it came on very suddenly. The second time however, I did get little warning signs a day or two before.

This is such a difficult judgment call. I am very concerned about safety yet how can I learn to drive without spending as much time as possible on the road?

Ally you are correct, vertigo is much more than just feeling lightheaded. It can be quite violent and there is no way I could drive. If it came on very suddenly I may not even be able to pull over to the side of the road.

If anyone else who experiences vertigo comes across this I would love to hear about your own experiences.
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Postby AllyB » Wed Apr 23, 2008 2:18 pm

Hi there

I have experienced dizziness and balance issues a few times (!), but true vertigo, only once. It came on very suddenly at work one afternoon - I didn't actually associate it with ms immediately, as ms hadn't been a big issue for me prior to that. I was really scared as the world was literally spinning, accompanied by bad nausea - very, very frightening.

My colleagues carted me off to the emergency room at a hospital near where I worked, and it was only after going through a work-up and almost being given a diagnosis of 'panic attack' (my BP was very high and I normally have low BP, it was natural for it to be high because of my fear though, but paradoxically, the medical staff thought that anxiety was the issue, instead of it being caused by the world literally spinning) - when it eventually came out that I had MS (this was when it was still quite mild, before I started Avonex, and they never asked and I never thought to mention it during my exam), I was referred to my neuro, who diagnosed the vertigo.
He admitted me and gave me some drug IV (can't remember what it was) and it improved rapidly in about 36 hours and I went home.
Thank God I have never had it since (this was about 3 years ago, and I can still remember it very clearly) - it is a truly awful thing that totally prostrates you, you cannot even get to the toilet.

I really feel for you - I still have balance issues and occasional dizziness, but vertigo is a completely different animal.
I believe that the folks who suffer from Menieres disease (spelling - an affliction of the middle or inner ear) can suffer from vertigo too - maybe the drugs used for this would help you? I remember they use anti-emetics like Stemetil, and motion sickness drugs too...? But these also have side effects...
I can understand your concern regarding safety - maybe you should drive with someone in the car with you (just in case) for a few months until you have tracked the occurrance of the vertigo and can judge its' impact on your driving capabilities?
The distinction between dizziness and vertigo was made clear to me after I researched it - which I did after experiencing it.
I wish you all the best.

Take care
Al
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Postby krsm_131 » Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:06 pm

Was the drug they gave you meclizine?
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Postby Punchy » Wed Aug 20, 2008 5:44 am

Krsm, I believe it would have been a corticosteroid like SoluMedrol. That's what I aws given by IV infusion.
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Postby MrsGeorge » Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:07 am

Good for you punchy. I'm sorry I can't tell you about US law but in the UK I have had to inform the DVLA and apply for my license again (no test but I have to pass the medical requirements).

As for when I do drive - I only drive when I feel that it's safe and tend to let my husband do it most of the time!
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The end of the road.....

Postby catlover1968 » Fri Dec 12, 2008 9:05 pm

I[b] have had MS for over 20 years, I just turned 40. Biggest issue being cognitive skills....along with the usual vision/vertigo/fatigue/spasm assorted MS stuff. I haven't driven in almost 3 years. I feel way too "drunk" to get behind the wheel and endanger others and myself.
Actually, I have been feeling non stop drunk for years... I know it is time to get it over with and go to the next step. The problem is, what to do? call auto insurance co, dmv, my dr. of course.....has anyone else had to deal with this....... I am lucky that my husband who deals with type 1 juvenile diabetes understands the challenges of chronic illness, and he drives.....
I would appreciate any advice, thank you,
Meg
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Postby Lainie » Sat Dec 13, 2008 4:48 pm

Good for you for learning to drive. If I couldn't drive, I would be completely restricted in where I can go.

Basically, if I am having a day with bad vertigo I don't drive on that day; but my vertigo does not come on suddenly, so I don't know if that helps you.

I don't know what the law is like where you live, but the only thing I consider a real restriction to my driving is that I know if there were a sobriety checkpoint somewhere (they set those up here periodically to check for drunk drivers) I would not be able to pass the test (can't walk in a straight line, can't balance on one foot, etc). I guess in that situation, I would take the breathalizer instead.
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Postby catlover1968 » Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:40 am


Sorry, I didn't mean to make it sound like I'm learning to drive, I've known how to do that for the last 25 years......just that feeling like this, like I've have had a continuous "buzz" for about the last 17 years, that can be like I've had a couple drinks, to a bottle of vodka or something.....it has never gone away.......when attempting to drive, it's honestly like I'm drunk + horrible forgetfullness.....just remembering simple directions I've driven many times before. has become a nightmare ...really bad vertigo can't stand up days I wouldn't feel like driving much less even leaving the house.......
I can't be the only one who has gone through this......I probably should have quit driving even prior to the last time 3 years ago. :?:
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Driving......

Postby catlover1968 » Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:43 am


P.S. I've lived in 3 states since I've had a liscense, because I have kept it current, I've never had a problem except once because of double vision I couldn't hide. If they only knew........
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driving

Postby she-aardvark » Sun Feb 01, 2009 11:15 am

Hi Punchy
Another comment from the UK
As mentioned earlier we are obliged to inform the DVLA (drivers and vehicle licensing authority) but they did nothing more than send me a questionnaire after which they authorised me to drive.
I too have vertigo every now and then but fortunately I know when it will be an issue and it doesn’t come on suddenly. I think as you become more tuned in to early warning signs you will be able to avoid driving on these occasions. Just keep the safety issue at the front of your mind, only you can know when you’re not safe, and act accordingly. Then you are perfectly safe. Even so called “normal” people have times when they shouldn’t drive.
As to the headlights issue: This was also a problem for me so I stopped driving at night. The last month when I went to the opticians to check I was still legal he gave me some glasses with a non reflective coat for night driving. This one simple thing has changed my life. Before I had consigned myself to never driving in the dark, which is a problem in the winter, but with these lenses I can see better at night than in the day!! The optician says this is normal. I wouldn’t be surprised if they also helped vertigo. There has been no claim of such a thing but I know that for me it’s worse when my eyes encounter bright lights.
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