Can I Have Laser Eye Surgery As A Pilot?
Mr Tariq Ayoub - 17 Jul 2022
Laser Eye Surgery corrects short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism and reading vision (presbyopia). Following laser vision correction, you will be able to perform most critical tasks without the need for glasses and contact lens. This is especially important if you are a pilot whether that be for flying as a hobby, as a private or commercial airline pilot or as a pilot for the army, navy or air force.
In this article we will discuss the different types of vision correction surgeries available to pilots and the regulations surrounding these surgeries in the UK as stipulated by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and the Ministry of Defence.
What are the different types of laser eye surgery available to pilots?
Laser eye surgery is a type of vision correction procedure which uses pulses of laser to reshape the surface of the eye called the cornea. This brings your vision back to sharp focus without the need for glasses or contact lens.
The different types of laser eye surgery available to pilots include:
- LASIK (laser assisted in-situ keratomileusis)
- Trans-PRK (photorefractive keratectomy)
- SMILE (small incision lenticule extraction)
The type of laser eye surgery best suited to you as a pilot is dependent on a full assessment of your eye and your glasses prescription, results of scans done at your assessment and your general health.
At Oculase, we have treated several pilots and helped them achieve their pilot’s license from the Civil Aviation Authority.
What are the alternatives to laser eye surgery as a pilot?
Sometimes, based on your assessment, you may not be suitable for laser eye surgery. You may, however, be suitable for an alternative vision correction procedure such as Implantable Contact Lens or Refractive Lens Exchange surgery.
In Implantable Contact Lens surgery, a custom lens implant is placed on top of your natural lens and behind your iris (the coloured portion of your eye). The lens implant is not visible to anyone and you do not have to remove or replace it unlike a standard contact lens.
In Refractive Lens Exchange Surgery, your natural lens is replaced with a multifocal or varifocal lens giving your greater independence from glasses or contact lenses. This surgery is often reserved for those above the age of 50 requiring reading glasses in addition to distance glasses that they may already wear.
Laser Eye Surgery considerations for private and commercial pilots
The CAA guidelines for vision requirements vary based on your license class. Your aeromedical examiner (AME) will assess your vision and the health of your eye during the initial assessment. If you don’t meet the vision criteria, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist for further assessment. At Oculase, Mr. Ayoub regularly does eye assessments for those who do not meet this vision criteria.
Private and commercial pilots can have laser eye surgery, implantable contact lens surgery and refractive lens exchange surgery. The guidelines do, however, state after surgery:
- Your vision must be stable
- There should have been no post-operative complications
- Your glare sensitivity should be within normal standards
- Your contrast sensitivity should not be impaired
You can generally have a reassessment with your aeromedical examiner once you have completed your course of post-operative medications and your eyes are stable.
Laser Eye Surgery considerations for military pilots
The vision and surgery standards for military personnel within the army, navy or air force are much more stringent. Vision requirements are assessed as part of the initial assessment as stipulated by each branch of the military.
You are allowed to have LASIK laser eye surgery as military pilot in the army, navy or air force. However, as your work in the military carries an increased risk of trauma, it is often recommended to have PRK laser eye surgery rather than LASIK.
The Ministry of Defence do state that prospective pilots can be considered to join service after laser vision correction surgery including LASIK and Trans-PRK surgery if:
- Six months have elapsed since your surgery
- Your eyes have been stable for 3 months
- Your prescription should be between -5D to +2D prior to surgery
Further guidance from the Ministry of Defence can be found here.
Safety of Laser Eye Surgery in Pilots
Laser eye surgery is a safe procedure with millions of surgeries performed worldwide with excellent outcomes. Our lead surgeon, Mr. Ayoub, has helped several pilots and aspiring pilots achieve glasses and contact lens independence with LASIK, Implantable Contact Lens and Refractive Lens Exchange Surgeries.
At Oculase, we only use wavefront technology for all our laser vision correction treatments. Unlike conventional laser eye surgery, wavefront laser treatment corrects tiny imperfections in your eyes to give you precision vision correction. This is especially important as a pilot performing critical tasks.
Most side-effects of laser eye surgery can be minimised with good after-care as discussed by our medical director and certified LASIK surgeon, Mr. Ayoub in the video below.
If you are considering LASIK or have any questions regarding vision correction surgery, contact us to book a free consultation.