For most people, having LASIK is about seeing well without needing to rely on glasses and contacts. What you may not know is that the U.S. military trusts LASIK and other laser vision correction procedures in order for service members to have the vision required for operational success and safety. While a civilian may really enjoy or even need great vision, for military personnel in combat situations or when landing a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, good vision can be a matter of life and death.
Some service members endure harsh environments, with sand, dust, smoke and debris flying around. These conditions render corrective lenses, both glasses and contacts, useless and even dangerous. This is why the U.S. Department of Defense conducted its own research into the viability of laser vision correction procedures, like LASIK, to support their personnel in achieving the excellent vision needed to perform their duties no matter where they might serve.
One study measured the military readiness of 360 active duty service members before and after laser vision correction surgery. The study evaluated factors such as “weapons sighting ability” and “ability to function at night.” In all cases, performance indicators improved after surgery. Data showed that after laser vision correction:
- 57 percent of study participants improved their performance scores on “overall individual readiness”
- 86 percent improved their scores on “ability to utilize night vision goggles”
- 41 percent reporter improved ability to contribute to the unit’s mission
- More than 98 percent of study participants reported they would have the surgery again.
- Another recent study demonstrated that pilots landing on aircraft carriers at night saw better with less glare than they did with glasses.
Today, the U.S. military is one of the largest providers of laser vision correction procedures in the country. As such, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration partnered with the Department of Defense in the first arm of the Patient Reported Outcomes with LASIK (PROWL) study to scientifically validate a questionnaire that gives patients an accurate and complete way to report the experience with LASIK to researchers. Importantly, the military arm of the PROWL study reported a very high satisfaction rate with LASIK, an estimated 98 percent.
Like military personnel, many emergency responders such as police officers and firefighters are turning to laser vision correction, such as LASIK eye surgery, in order to perform their jobs more safely and effectively. While you may not have the same requirements for visual excellence in order to protect and serve, if you are thinking about having laser vision correction, here are answers to some commonly-asked questions about LASIK eye surgery:
What is LASIK?
Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) uses laser technology to reshape the cornea to reduce or eliminate the visual irregularities that cause nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism. Many patients see better after LASIK than with their glasses or contacts.
Is the surgery safe?
LASIK is a safe and effective vision correction option. In fact, LASIK is safer than contact lenses. Clinical data reports that the risk of vision loss due to infection is much higher with contact lenses than LASIK.
Is everyone a candidate?
While today’s LASIK technology means more people than ever can take advantage of its vision correcting abilities, not everyone is a candidate. Between 15 and 20 percent of patients are not candidates for the procedure.
How can I find out more?
Because it is an elective procedure, LASIK is a personal choice and one that should be thoroughly considered. Become an informed patient by carefully researching the procedure so you understand the risks and benefits of laser vision correction.
What type of surgeon is right for me?
Do your research about LASIK, schedule consultations, and select the most highly-qualified surgeon, one who has experience with first responders and their needs, if possible.