Vision is everything for a pilot, and eye health can make or break a pilot’s career. Yet pilots have unique vision requirements: We rely on near-field vision to read delicate cockpit instruments as well as excellent distance vision to accurately gauge takeoff, landing, and navigation. So, what are some of the threats to pilot’s eyes, and how can you prevent them?
Dry eyes can be annoying for anyone, but to pilots dry eyes may be quite dangerous, leading to irritation and blurry vision. Dry eyes can be caused by a variety of reasons: allergies, certain medications, exposure to sun, and air conditioning are just some of the ways. Pressurized airplane cabins can also cause dry eye by sucking the moisture from the air at high altitudes. How can you treat and prevent dry eye? Experts say to first avoid rubbing your eyes, as this may further your irritation and allow bacteria from your hands to enter your eyes. Invest in lubricating eye drops to use before and after flight to treat the effects of dry eyes. Eating plenty of green leafy vegetables (like broccoli or kale) has also been thought to help eyes stay lubricated naturally.
Another condition affecting pilots is eye fatigue and eyestrain. The symptoms of eye fatigue include headaches, sensitivity to lights, eye twitching, and difficulty concentrating, all of which can make it hard to fly. Extended use of digital electronics such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets has also given rise to a new condition called digital eyestrain. Prevent eye fatigue by making sure you’re getting plenty of sleep and taking breaks between looking at digital devices throughout the day. Be sure to wear sunglasses when flying or driving on sunny days to protect your eyes from damaging UV rays.
Perhaps the most common vision related problems for pilots occur with age. The most common age-related vision condition is called Age-related Macular Degeneration, or AMD. AMD is a disease that gradually decreases sharp, central vision. It is vital for tasks such as reading, driving, and of course, flying. The best way to prevent AMD is by receiving regular eye exams. If caught early, treatment can slow the damage of the disease.