Seeing As a Soldier: A Guide to Military Eye Correction
If you need corrective lenses, the world of eye care becomes more complex when you choose to join the military. Because of safety and uniform regulations, some soldiers discover they will need to make a change in their current eye-care lifestyle. Below you'll discover how the military regulates specific eye wear and what treatment options are available to you for vision correction.
Unfortunately, military service members are strongly discouraged from wearing contacts of any kind when serving in a non-garrison role. Contacts present a considerable safety risk for those who are in combat, in flight, in leadership roles, or in other similarly stressful situations. Contacts can catch dust and debris and hold them in the eye or can fall out or tear in two, leaving the combat solider in pain or distracted from the firefight. If exposed to harmful chemicals, contacts can prolong exposure to harmful substances, reducing the health of the eye. Finally, taking out and placing contacts in the eye increases the risk of eye infections, which is a particular concern for military aviation personnel.
If you are are used to wearing contacts on a daily basis, be prepared to spend more time in glasses whenever you are on operation, drilling, or training. Keep in mind that even when attending formal events where there is not danger, tinted contacts, color-change contacts, and contacts that change the shape of the iris or pupil are against uniform regulations.
Glasses are the preferred removable corrective method for military personnel. In combat you will generally wear standard-issue uniform glasses, although this can depend on your rank and the branch of the military you go into. Standard-issue glasses used to be called "BCGs" (birth-control glasses) because they were not stylish or trendy. However, in 2012, a new design was issued that is more modern. Glasses are acceptable in all areas of the military, and prescription sunglasses are also acceptable. Uniform standards dictate that sunglasses must be conservative in style and that any glasses that are not issued should also be conservative in nature—no colored frames or strange frame shapes that detract from the integrity of the uniform, both in combat and in dress.
Because serving in glasses can be bothersome for many soldiers, corrective surgery is an option that becomes appealing to service members. There are two types of corrective surgery that are acceptable to military standards.
LASIK. LASIK is one of the most well-known forms of surgery. After cutting back the cornea into a flap, the laser is used to correctly shape the eye. This is newer and is a more widely used form of surgical correction because it has a faster recovery time and less patient discomfort.
PRK. PRK is similar to LASIK, except with PRK, the cornea is partially removed instead of cut back in a flap. The recovery process is slower as the removed portion grows back, but the vision correction is nearly identical. For combat, PRK can be preferable because there is no incision line on the cornea, as there is with LASIK. With a concussion, there is a small chance the line could rupture and damage the eye. This procedure also works well for patients with more extensive need for the laser. With the removed tissue, the base for working within the eye is larger than that of traditional LASIK procedures.
No matter which surgical procedure you choose, after recovering your vision, military application allow you to waive prior vision complications if you have no other history which could exclude you. If you have more questions about passing vision tests and preparing for military service, contact an eye doctor near you.