Military Laser Eye Surgery Improves Vision Preparation | Health work


Maintaining near perfect vision is vital for any fighter.

While many military personnel wear contact lenses or glasses, other fighters find glasses or contact lenses incompatible or difficult in harsh environments.

“Vision has so much of an impact on what we do in the military, and having problems with glasses or contact lenses, especially in a deployed environment, can cause a multitude of problems,” said Lt. -Air Force Colonel James Townley, refractive surgery consultant, said.

Twenty years ago, the Department of Defense launched the Warfighter refractive eye surgery program.

This program was originally designed to provide a combat vision advantage to Navy SEALS, Special Forces and other fighters through a variety of corrective surgery options. Since its inception in 2001, research, technology and experience have allowed the program to expand to include all active service members, including Airmen.

Refractive photokeratectomy and laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis are available at 26 military laser centers. This advanced technology allows the correction of most patients with myopia, astigmatism or hyperopia.

However, no procedure currently eliminates the need for reading glasses, which occurs due to the aging of the eye, usually when a person reaches their mid-forties.

PRK is a 10-minute surgical procedure that reshapes the curvature of the corneal surface by gently removing tissue using a cold ultraviolet laser.

LASIK involves creating a surgical flap with a laser on the front of the cornea, then sculpting the underlying surface. This procedure typically takes five to 30 minutes. The recovery time for LASIK is typically a few days to a few weeks.

Small incision lens extraction is a new refractive surgery procedure available at some military refractive surgery centers. Air Force Maj. Bill Gensheimer, chief of ophthalmology at the Warfighter Eye Center at Joint Base Andrews in Md., Said, “Refractive surgery in the military provides a visual advantage in combat. It allows our fighters and airmen to deploy without glasses or contacts. We are now performing SMILE for active duty members.

Research and security

Active duty members now have the ability to correct their distance vision, if they are medically and administratively qualified. Thanks to advanced technology and the military’s dedication to operations research and security, refractive surgery has been performed on more than 350,000 military personnel. According to ophthalmologist and surgeon, Lieutenant-Colonel (Dr) Gary Legault, “refractive surgery consultant for the military, nearly 95% of patients achieve correction levels of 20/20 or better, which allows them to ” carry out their combat tasks without dependency. on glasses. Current wait times for surgery average four to eight weeks, a significant drop from the early days of the program.

How does an active duty member submit a request for surgery

The first step is to have an eye exam with your local optometrist. Your ophthalmologist will help you contact one of the 26 military refractive surgery centers, usually through their websites, and complete the application. During this process, military personnel must be cleared by their commanding officer to undergo the procedure, be medically qualified, have a stable eyeglass prescription, and have a specific amount of active duty time.

More information online

At the laser surgery center, each candidate for surgery undergoes a thorough assessment, usually lasting about two hours, including dilation of the pupil. “Overall, during the preoperative assessment, we are trying to determine what is the safest procedure that will provide them with the best vision,” Lt. Col. (Dr.) Ryan Roberts, director of laser eye surgery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, said.

“All service members who still wear glasses or contact lenses should be evaluated for refractive surgery,” Townley said. “The longer they go without it, the less time they have to enjoy life without glasses,” he said. If you are interested in laser eye surgery and are on active duty, your next step is to talk to your military optometrist and / or visit one of the 26 Military Laser Surgery Center websites.

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