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eyeglasses vs. contacts

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May 17, 2002
Just had to get my first pair of glasses to pass my 1st class medical. Problem is, I have astigmatism in one eye (20/50) and 20/20 in the other. The glasses tend to mess up my depth perception a little because of this. The doc says that after wearing them for a while I will adjust to them and should be O.K. He also said that contacts would not have this effect but they seem much more of a hassle to use. Anyone have any advice or experience on this subject? Should I stick with glasses or go to contacts? What about sunglasses? Perscription or standard sunglasses over contacts? And will I even be required to wear lenses of any kind when I'm hired with an airline? I can see 20/20 as long as both eyes are open.
I got some contacts last Christmas, and use them when I fly at night. My vision is close enough to 20/20 uncorrected to pass a 1st class medical, but I still noticed that I had a bit of fuzziness around the edges of things at a distance - especially at night. So I decided to get some contacts to make things as perfect as possible. Now my vision is over twice as good as perfect and flying at night is awesome. I don't notice too much of a difference during the day.

Anyway, I really like the contacts. They don't irritate me at all, although it takes me about 10 minutes or so to put them in. I still haven't mastered them. I use them only when I fly at night, which is usually about 3 or 4 times a month. Really, I don't think contacts are that big of a hassle, but then again I'm not using them every day.

I DO wish I had glasses for when I'm flying in IMC. With the contacts in, my eyes aren't used to the focal length for stuff up close. So when I look at the instruments, my eyes need to work a little harder to focus. I flew a night 1.4 hour trip on instruments the whole way, and my eyes were sore about an hour after I landed. I took the contacts out before I left for the trip back, and my eyes felt a lot better. With glasses, I can get the best of both worlds in these types of situations.

Anyway, contacts are no big problem, and they're certainly easier to fly with than glasses - especially when using sunglasses over them. I'd give them a try.
I have almost the same problem, however I have 20/20 vision in one eye and about 20/25 in the other with my contacts. So I wear them. I have a depth perception problem with the glasses that really bother me. I tried wearing them in the sim about a year ago and found my performance to be better with the contacts. So I perfer to wear the contacts instaed of the glasses.
There are more expensive contacts that will correct for an astigmatism, you might want to ask your eye doctor about them. I think for me its safer to wear the contacts though.
I prefer glasses.
I went to contacts several years ago, and they were great until my eyes got infected from wearing them. Contacts turned out to be a pain in the a$$ FOR ME. My vision actually deteriorated from 20/25 to 20/100 in about 8 months time. After several doctor visits and switching back to glasses my vision has improved back to 20/35. Now, I only wear glasses when I am flying and my eyes do not dry out as much as they did with contacts. Anyway, this was just my experience with them.
Glasses v. contacts v. astigmatism

I needed vision correction beginning at eight years old. I wore glasses until I was 39, until I found a terrific optometrist in Prescott, Arizona, who said I could wear contacts. I wanted contacts because I thought that I was projecting a poor image as an applicant at commuter interviews (never mind the Delta and other airline pilots I'd see who wore glasses).

He put me in soft lenses, which are tricky at first to put in your eyes until you get onto them. I had astigmatism, which meant for me that at night traffic signal lights and street lights were kind of fuzzy/blurry. However, after a while wearing contacts, the fuzzy/blurry problem cleared up (sorry!). The images were now sharp at night. The doctor said it had something to do with my cornea hardening or something.

I continued to wear my contacts for the next ten years. No problems, really, but at 43 I needed reading glasses. That really was no problem until last year, when I found that I had no close-up vision unless I removed my contacts. I also got tired of constantly putting on and taking off my reading glasses. Moreover, when I'd get colds, my eyes would discharge. So, I asked my current optometrist (I had moved) if she thought that bifocals would be a good idea for those occasions. She agreed.

This year, I got sick of sticking in the contacts, and got sicker of not having close-up vision. I also got tired of dry eyes, especially during allergy season, and the other miseries. So, now I wear my bifocals full time. I got decent, designer frames and don't look like a geek (I hope).

I learned from my AME that as long as you can see 20/20 uncorrected you can get your First. I had to take a vision correction restriction on my medical, which is far better than the SODA I had eight years ago. The long and short of it is the airlines shouldn't care about your vision as long as you have your First. I've heard that even Delta is no long anal about its applicants not having 20/20 uncorrected at hire.

I had prescription sunglasses for a while and they were a pain in the a$$ because I always had to haul two pair of glasses around; the sunglasses and regular glasses. I use BluBlockers for sunglasses and wear them in front of my regular glasses.

Bottom line: Wear what you like and wear what is comfortable.

Hope that helps a little.
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MAKE sure you get a presription for TORIC contact lens. They will correct for your astigmatism.

When I got my first pair of contacts about 3 years ago, the doctor did not give me a toric lens, and I had 20/20 vision with a little blur. I went to a different eye doc about 4 months ago and he asked why I wasn't using a toric lens. He switched me, and I now have 20/10 in the left and 20/15 in my right eye. Toric lens are a little more expensive, but well worth it for a pilot. I've never been able to spot traffic and find airports at a distance like this before.

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