Hypertension and Driving

Some anti-hypertensive drugs, particularly reserpine and clonidine, if taken in high dose or if the pressure is brought down rapidly can slow down reactions and affect one’s driving ability. Untreated hypertensives can also face hazards triggered by strain while driving

  1. Coronary patients can have attacks of angina
  2. Patients with cardiovascular problems can suffer dizziness, fainting spells or even a sudden retinal haemorrhage can disable them
  3. Kidney failure, cluster headaches, sensation of things dancing before one’s eyes
  4. Diminished reactions can all seriously impair the driving ability of hypertensives.

Persons receiving medication can experience fatigue, diminished reactions, acute attacks of weakness especially in conjunction with small quantities of tranquillisers or alcohol or if a high blood pressure is brought down too rapidly and abruptly. Serious ‘orthostatic’ reactions (sudden fall in blood pressure once a person gets up after sitting for a long time) can occur in older persons spontaneously or in case of methyldopa treatment. Hypertensive drivers taking diuretcs may sometimes get decreased serum potassium levels caused by diuretics. The following eight rules are very important for hypertensive drivers.

  1. No painkillers, mood drugs, sleeping pills or alcohol.
  2. Do not change drugs or dosage without doctor’s advise.
  3. Regular blood pressure checkups with the doctor.
  4. No driving when starting out on or changing medication.
  5. The driver must avoid areas like high altitudes or smoking in cars as these are ‘low oxygen’ areas.
  6. Physical exertion all of a sudden to be avoided (e.g: changing tyres, lifting heavy loads).
  7. Long distances should not be driven without frequent rest stops.
  8. “Stop driving” immediately if there is a feeling of tension, dizziness (fainting sensation), lack of concentration.

If a person has very severe hypertension and is on drug treatment he must check with the doctor whether it is advisable to drive or not. If the doctor says ‘no’ then it is better to take his advice, as ignoring his advise and driving will endanger not only the driver’s life but also the life of passengers and bystanders.

The Hypertensive Patient’s ID

Like diabetics or people taking anti-coagulants, hypertensives should carry identifications that:

  1. States the type of medication he is taking.
  2. Dosage of the medication.
  3. Most recent blood pressure reading.
  4. Name and address of their doctor.

The doctor can supply such a form/ card to his patient on request by the patient.