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I am considering getting the LASIK eye surgery done and would like to find out if any airline pilots have had it done. How was the experience, pros and cons, and what is the FAA's stance on this issue now? Thanks.
I don't believe that vision correction surgery was ever a real problem for the FAA. You could undergo the surgery, send in the Report of Eye Examination form completed by your eyecare professional, and have your medical changed to reflect your improved vision and no need for a waiver. It was more a problem for the airlines and the military. I understand that both have relaxed their opposition to vision correction surgery in recent years.
Frankly, you couldn't drag me within a thousand feet of a lasik surgeon. Too much can go wrong. Try running a search of lasik failures. For example, I found this fairly objective article on Lasik:
I too HAD been considering having surgery until today. I asked my Aviation Doc while I was in for my Physical today about Lasik. He told me that he had just been to a Doctors convention that had an hour presentation on lasik.
He told me that the FAA doesn't really have a position on the surgery. If you do have the surgery you have to jump through a few hoops if you do it Legit. (IE not going to Canada and paying cash and lying on your medical application) You have to have records from pre/post surgery sent to the FAA showing that your eye is still in good shape.
He also told me that the US Air Force has done extensive studies on Lasik and that they definitely do not suggest the surgery.
I am sure that many have had the surgery and were pleased with the results. My Doc put it simply. The shave your cornea with a laser which is already very thin to begin with. He asked me what do you have to gain??? No contacts... That would be nice... But what do you have to lose. Your Job?? Your correctable 20-20 vision??? Kinda sealed the deal for me.
He suggested waiting a few years to see where the technology goes if I was still interested.
That is Just my opinion..... I could be wrong...... Good luck with whatever you decide...
Be VERY, VERY careful here. I've had two friends undergo Lasik and they are both delighted with the results. On the other hand, I have several doctor friends and they emphatically say they would never go anywhere near a Lasik.
Like OakRBust suggests, why risk it? Nobody except the military requires 20/20 anymore.
Even if the success rate is 99.9%, that means 1 unlucky sap in every 1000 is going to have their eyes ruined, and Lasik problems are NOT correctable!
norskman2 Not True,
The Air Force now accepts 20/70 as long as it is correctable to 20/20, for pilot candidates.
The Air Force has relaxed its eye surgery restrictions, with permission you can get LASIK done by a civilian doctor. You must pay cash out of you own pocket, no help from the Air Force.
There are a few places the Air Force will do PRK for military personnel. One is here in Colorado Springs at the Air Force Academy. Not for Cadets, but for Active Duty personnel.
It's one of the few places I would get the surgery done. They are very picky, and reject a lot of people because of potential complications and unsure long-term results. They look at the history of your eyes and past prescriptions. If you eyes aren't stable, they won't do the surgery. This contradicts the civilian sector where all you need is cash, and they will be more than happy to take it from you, no matter what the results.
If I were to get it don, this would make me feel more comfortable due to the extensive screening. But I see just fine with my glasses, so I'm happy.
Two people in my office went to the academy for the surgery. One was rejected, the other now doesn't need glasses.
There is one thing few people mention that is very important for pilots, night vision. The surgery changes your night vision. You may be able to see 20/20, but lights can look different at night. You will see FOG around lights even when there is none. This won't happen. Additionally you may see multiple lights when there is only one. Try to picture looking through a fancy camera lens, you will often see multiple light reflections as the light passes through the various lens.
Now you are one final at night and the controller says you are cleared for runway 16, you say which one, I see six rows of lights.
Not to scare you, but eye surgery has ended quite a few pilot careers, even though they see 20/20. My opinion, if you are a professional pilot, don’t' risk your career. Wait until you really need the surgery, when you can't get the 1st class medical.
That is an excellent article. Definitely worth reading.
Among the problems with vision correction surgery are guarantees made. Sure, you're guaranteed improvement in your vision. Define "improvement." Some promises include improvement to 20/20. Sounds great, huh? What they don't tell you are the possible ancillary effects, such as double vision or shadow vision. So, yes, you are seeing 20/20, as promised, but you have all of these double images.
There is a growing body of med mal cases dealing with vision correction surgery. About two years ago some trial lawyer pub, perhaps it was Trial magazine, printed an article by a lawyer-opthamologist on vision correction surgery. It talked about all these side effects and complications I just mentioned. Try to find the article; it will open your eyes (sorry!) about vision correction surgery. I'll add a link if I can locate the article on line.
Despite all these articles, though, my gut feeling is I would never, ever, let any doctor take a knife to my eyes. Cataract surgery is another matter.
PS-This link is to an article written by an ophthamologist-turned-lawyer. Not the one I'm talking about, but a good article, nonetheless:
I didn't have LASIK. I had PRK basically the same without shaving the cornea first. I had it done in June 96 and have been doing great since then. My vision before was 20/200 and 20/300. Now it's 20/15. My night vision hasn't been affected. My left pupil is bigger than my right and opens a little farther than the part where the laser zapped it. My eye Dr. has said they have had a lot of enacement with the Lasik. But he said they have had real good luck with the PRK. I really didn't have to do much to get my medical cleared. I just had to have my eye Dr. submit my exams before and after my surgery. It did take awhile though. I think 2 or 3 months. But that was when they first approved it. It may not take that long now. There is good and bad in all surgeries. If you decide to go through with it do some research first. I went to Toronto for mine because it wasn't approved in the US yet. They were doing 7 a day then and said they were going to go up to 15 a day. Just do good research and look at all your options. PRK is a choice too. Just my experience.
Hey Bud, I got the Lasik done last summer and it rocks. It wasn't a big deal getting my medical back either. like everyone said earlier there are risks. So be ready for that. I went to a center where they had 2 surgeons. the one had the lasik done on himslef and the other did her daughter. that was enough to convince me it was realtively safe. Thats my 2 cents!
I wear contacts and hate them; I'm using the word hate here. I have considered it a few times but a doctor my boss sold an airplane to finally swayed me to stay away from it. He said your eye changes so much over time as we age and LASIK is such a new science that we really don't know what the long-term effects are. Not to mention the inherent risks of eye surgery when you make your living with your eyes. He also said that LASIK has become such a cash-crop for eye surgeons that there is a definite ethical issue at play here. There is huge money in the procedure and it takes volume to pay off the equipment and turn a profit. He stated that he could be wrong and many people are happy with the immediate results, but all we know thus far is the immediate results. 50 years ago doctors told people to smoke too.............
I rejected LASIK in 1995 due to its invasiveness and took PRK as it was a much more superficial (though the healing time was longer) procedure. My vision went from 20/200 to 20/20...the healing time was about two weeks and perhaps a month before I could really see well at night. It changed my life for the better and never a problem or question getting a Medical. (Incidently I went to an excellent clinic in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and was treated by a very personable and prfessional physician who had been performing it about eight years by that point.) I would without question recommend the procedure to anyone. Incidently my uncle also had the procedure at age 55 and came out perfect.
My doc told me people who have larger pupils sometimes get starry vision looking at night lighting .
Worse yet though is as people approach 40 they start to need reading glasses which means wearing glasses anyway down the road!! Chas
I recall reading about another procedure which basically sounds like they implant a permanent contact lens behind your cornea (?). the article was in (I think) Flying last year. Haven't heard much about it since then, but sounded like a much better alternative to Lasik or PRK.
I wore glasses for many, many years, from the third grade to 1990, which was about thirty years. I went to a regional interview wearing my glasses, which were thick on the left eye because of prisms, which I really didn't need, and bad vision that side. I wasn't hired. I thought that I wasn't hired in part because I projected the wrong image. I found a great optometrist in Prescott who got me into extended-wear disposable contacts. Also, G-d bless him, he straightened out a bogus waiver I was given by an AME in that city who was also an ophthamologist.
I wore my contacts full-time and wore them to subsquent regional interviews. Same result. Not hired. Apparently it made no difference whether I looked like a stud pilot or a dork.
In later years, in my forties I needed reading glasses along with my contacts. In my work I do a lot of reading. It became a real pain in the a$$ to put on and take off my reading glasses constantly. I discussed getting bifocals with my optometrist (based on how that Prescott AME jobbed me with a bogus waiver, I refuse to use opthalmologists). She thought it was a good idea. Now, this year, I've stopped wearing my contacts and I wear my bifocals full-time. By the way, my new AME told me last December I no longer need the waiver (SODA) and asked the FAA on my behalf to drop it.
More importantly, I think I look just fine in my bifocals. They are the kind without lines (not that I cared, particularly), and much less upkeep is needed. In addition, I see plenty of pilots for majors wearing glasses, including Delta pilots.
Just a little more food for thought.
PM me for the name of the great Prescott optometrist and/or horrendous AME.
Yeah, I've heard of them. I believe they're indicated for MILD cases of myopia, so my -6 diopter eyes don't qualify. I'm not sure of the limit, perhaps -2.5 or less. There's just no hope for me other than trying to stay healthy and cutting the bottom off a new pair of Coke bottles every year.