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Eyeballs, Lasers, and Airplanes

CycloneRangerCycloneRanger Registered User regular
edited February 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
One year ago I had PRK on both eyes and for the most part the outcome has been excellent--I have 20/15 vision in both eyes (that is, slightly better than 20/20). This is true in bright light and dim light, but there does seem to be one small defect--I can see some distortion around bright objects under certain lighting conditions (sort of a weak halo). This is only noticeable in my right eye. Further, the effect seems dependent on how hard I'm focusing, and I believe I understand why--focusing on an object (as well as the local lighting conditions) affect pupil dilation, and with considerably larger-than-average pupils to begin with the ablation zone for my right eye is smaller than my pupil diameter under some conditions. Focusing on a distant object contracts the pupil and reduces or removes this effect.

I don't have any problems with this (other than minor annoyance at having asymmetric vision--again, this is one eye only), and I can drive at night just fine (in fact headlights are bright enough that when looking at them my pupils contract and I notice no distortion). However, I didn't get PRK done for shits and giggles--I want to be a pilot one day, or at least I want to keep the option open.

The problem I have is this--I don't know whether this would be disqualifying for a military pilot. PRK is waiverable for the USAF, NASA, and (I think) the USN depending on a good outcome, but I have no idea where that line is drawn. Worse, I don't even know if it's possible to measure this beyond the vague description I can give. I have no baseline for what "normal vision" is like, nor any idea how different my vision is from that standard.

I need to decide whether to try to have another procedure done to correct this (widening the ablation zone might remove this kind of artifact) or not, and I'm not sure where to start. First, is there any way to measure this kind of thing? I feel singularly unqualified to judge this as I have no "baseline" to compare to and I've been going nuts over every tiny change in my vision through the whole PRK healing process. I imagine some of you must have some experience in part of this, at least. Second, how can I find out exactly how much this is going to impede any future career I might have involving flying? There are mathematical standards for refractive error, astigmatism, etc. and I can easily pass all of those (I can still read the 20/15 line of the chart with either eye, even when the distortion is visibly present), but I don't know how to analyze this into a "yes" or "no" and the uncertainty is really starting to get to me.

CycloneRanger on


  • AF-IXAF-IX Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Here's my situation that may shed some light for you:

    I'm currently in the USAF, and in the process of cross-training into Aerial Gunner. In order to do so, I had to have a complete and thorough Class-3 Flight Physical which determines eligibility for flight duty. From my understanding, it's the same test that the pilots at our base currently do to stay current on their flight status.

    About 4 years ago, I had LASIK performed outside of the USAF on my own dime. Long-story-short...I obviously disclosed that information before my eyes and vision got checked. The doc numbed my eyes with those yellow-drops and checked them under that magnifier they use. Basically she just checked to make sure that they healed correctly, etc.

    The eye exam itself was just the run-of-the-mill eye test (read chart on wall with each eye covered, in contrast lighting, etc). The test also consists of a depth-perception test which is NOT as easy as it sounds. Many aspiring aircrew dreams have been stopped by that test. Almost got me.

    I had to have the place that did my LASIK send my before/after eye data to the flight doc, as part of the process. And the doc DID mention something about the a minimum time of 1-year from the surgery to even qualify. I too see "halos" around street lights, etc at night...but nothing that I would consider a hinderance to driving or anything. When the doc asked me if I saw them, I said no...and that was that.

    Passed and now just waiting for the rest of this bureaucratic numbers-game process to finish.

    If you'd like, I'd be more than happy to find out exactly what AFI (Air Force Instruction) the flight-docs use to determine pilot medical eligibility, and email it to you. There's nothing classified about it.

    AF-IX on
  • Conroy BumpasConroy Bumpas Registered User regular
    now im from the uk not the usa. but all diffrent avation organisations civialian and miletery. all have diffrent rules and standards. alot of them didnt allow you have any kind lazer eye sergery. i think this is comeing more relaxed. alot of the time you get given paper work with what standard of vision and what tests you need done. so you can go and get this done before applying so that you know if your likly to have any problems. so sorry for my bad spelling.

    in short.

    find out the exact criteria the job you want to go for needs. (dosnt matter if it dosnt mean anything to you)

    go to a optician and find out weather you meet it.

    at least that way you will know

    Please note I cannot be held responsible for any mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, karma, dharma, metaphysical, religious, philosophical, Logical , Ethical, Aesthetical, or financial damage caused by this post
  • Iceman.USAFIceman.USAF Captain East CoastRegistered User regular
    AF-IX hit it on the head. Read through the appropriate AFI, find the sections that apply to you and go over it with your Doc. That way when the AF calls he knows what they're looking for as well.

    Anecdotally, you should be fine. I've had a few friends in your situation almost exactly and they had no issues. Last I checked there was a minimum time between the procedure and flight school though, which I think was 12 months.

  • CycloneRangerCycloneRanger Registered User regular
    Yeah, the requirement is one year between the procedure and being able to do anything, which is why I want to decide sooner rather than later if I need to have anything else done.

    I did read the relevant AFI about a year ago, but I can't seem to find the damn thing online anymore (did they move them?) so a link or .pdf or whatever would be appreciated.

    I think I probably need to talk to an ophthalmologist (or maybe just an optometrist) about this anyway as I'm no longer sure I understand what's going on. I was just outside in the dark on the way home from work and saw no halos of any kind--everything from distant streetlights to the stars overhead appeared as points. I can't quite find the pattern here. Maybe it's related to how dry my eyes are or how tired I am.

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