LASIK for Scuba Divers and Mountain Climbers

woman scuba diver
If you’re a scuba diver who wears glasses, LASIK surgery is considered a safe vision correction option

On top of a mountain or underwater is no place to be worrying about glasses or contacts.

Active lifestyles and laser eye surgery. It’s a great match. You don’t want to worry about glasses or contacts when you are camping, participating in sports, or enjoying nature, whether you are an extreme mountain climber or a casual birdwatcher. But some people worry that laser eye surgery could jeopardize their ability to work or enjoy their recreational pastimes. There’s actually very little reason for concern. As this article on the website notes:

“LASIK may be a good choice for individuals involved in high altitude activities, but those achieving extreme altitudes of 7927 m (26,000 ft) and above should be aware of possible fluctuation of vision. Data suggest that a small refractive shift in the myopic direction may be present at extreme altitudes.”

For reference, Mt Everest is 29, 029 feet high (8,848m). The highest peak in Canada is Mt. Logan in the Yukon, at 19,551 ft (5959m).

If the scenery below the water is more interesting to you than a mountaintop vista, you’ll be happy to know that LASIK also gets a vote of confidence from the diving community. Ernest S. Campbell is a doctor and a diver, who answers many questions about medical conditions and scuba diving on his website Campbell has this to say about laser eye surgery and diving, citing the work done by Captain Frank K. Butler Jr of the U.S. Navy:

1. There are no case reports that document diving related complications after LASIK.

2. There are at least three potential complications that might occur in post-op LASIK patients as a result of diving:

  • Globe rupture from face mask barotrauma (unlikely)
  • Interface keratitis (infection of the flap interface)
  • Flap displacement from interface bubbles

3. Complications that might impact the safety of divers include;

  • Halo
  • Glare
  • Night diving complaints
  • These decrease from 25+% early to about 4% in one year.

4. It is recommended waiting a minimum of one month before resuming diving after LASIK. [Butler]

For more information about diving and eyes, check out this article by Butler (originally printed in the May/June 1998 issue of Alert Diver, which answers the common questions divers have about their eyesight: Divers’ Most-Asked Questions About Their Eyes.