Lasik for the Military – How Does It Help Our Troops?

By: Thomas Hunter

Lasik vision correction surgery is a perfect option for many people. Those who are very active can benefit a great deal from this vision correction procedure. Most people who have this surgery can return to their regular activities and jobs within days and experience very little side effects. One group of people that can benefit from Lasik surgery is the military. Now the military often recommends Lasik to their ranks to help them stay free of glasses and contact lenses.

It is estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 soldiers every year must keep track of glasses, prescription goggles and lenses. When in the battlefield, these can be a burden. Glasses are often lost or broken and contacts can make eyes irritated if not taken care of properly. Now that the military has been offering Lasik over the last four years, keeping track of these corrective lenses is becoming easier for many.

Lasik surgery involves a procedure that takes only one or two minutes per eye. For those with low to moderate vision difficulties this is often the perfect choice. During surgery, a small laser called the excimer is used to cut a very small flap in the cornea. Corneal tissue is then removed to improve vision. The amount removed varies from patient to patient. The flap is then replaces and left to heal. Those in the military, who choose Lasik, will often choose the PRK technology. This method eliminates the need for cutting a flap in the cornea and allows soldiers who must stay very active not worry about the healing process. This can be a huge benefit for military personnel who must stay in constant physical activity such as jumping, flying and swimming.

The Lasik procedure is cost effective for the military because they do not need to worry about the constant need for replacing lost or broken glasses. Lasik and PRK cost the military around $1000 per patient. This price is much lower than the cost for the average civilian who can pay anywhere from $1700 to $2500 for the procedure. It is estimated that about one third of all military personnel can benefit a great deal from the Lasik procedure. For the army, the surgery is determined based on need and the severity of the vision problems. Those who are active in combat are usually favored to have the procedure.

The Air Force also recommends Lasik for some of their pilots. This program started in 2001 and offers PRK to those eligible. Lasik, however, is an option, but only for those who perform light duties. Those who perform flight operations cannot have Lasik because the cornea flap can cause complications during flight.

Military servicemen and women who take part in Special Forces troops and those who see combat and wear respirators or gas masks are usually given top priority for the vision correction surgery. Those who are not good candidates for the surgery are those who have medical conditions such as arthritis or diabetes because the healing process could be slowed.

Participation in the vision correction procedures are completely optional, but encouraged for those in combat. Glasses that are broken during combat can severely affect or damage the eyes resulting in permanent vision loss. This has happened many times in the past. While some vision correction patients still need some type of corrective lenses after surgery, the time needed to wear these can be drastically decreased.

It is estimated that over three million Americans have benefited from the Lasik procedure since it was approved in 1995. The surgery causes few complications and less that one percent of those having the procedure experience difficulties.

Congress approves of the plan for giving Lasik to the military. It approved $15 million for the eye surgery for the military. For the 40 percent of just Air Force troops that rely on corrective lenses, the surgery can be a great benefit. Airmen who are ejected from planes often have their glasses ripped off by the high wind.

Lasik can be a huge help for military troops that have a need for eyeglasses or contact lenses. For those who engage in battle broken glasses pose a threat to permanent vision loss. Lost glasses can make a solider defenseless if he or she cannot see to perform their duties. Lasik and other methods of laser vision correction surgery can help many.


This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read. This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease".

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