Astigmatism: What Pilots Do

Astigmatism is a common eye condition that affects how light enters the eye, causing blurry or distorted vision. On the other hand, pilots are professionals responsible for operating planes. They have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the job. Besides passing exams, they also have to satisfy specific medical requirements concerning their vision, mental and psychological health, among others. This article explores the impact of astigmatism on flying and the steps pilots with the condition can take to overcome it.
Can You Be A Pilot With Astigmatism?

Requirements for Pilots

Physical requirements

To become a pilot, one must meet a set of physical standards. For instance, they should have normal blood pressure, BMI, and respiratory function. Moreover, their hearing and vision must be satisfactory, which often means having 20/20 or 20/40 vision, with or without glasses.

Mental and psychological requirements

Apart from meeting certain physical health standards, pilots also have to undergo mental and psychological evaluations. The job requires one to make quick decisions under stressful conditions, multitask, and handle emergencies. Therefore, airlines and aviation authorities mandate psychological assessments to screen for conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse that could impair someone’s ability to perform the job effectively.
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Impact of Astigmatism on Flying

Requirements for eyesight

Pilots must have a clear vision to operate planes safely. While vision requirements vary slightly from one country to another, astigmatism is generally allowed, as long as vision can be corrected to 20/20 or 20/40. However, pilots with severe astigmatism may require special lenses or undergo corrective procedures like LASIK or PRK.

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Restrictions of astigmatism

A common effect of astigmatism is blurred vision or distortion. This can create problems while reading instruments, recognizing objects, or evaluating the distance, among other things. Additionally, astigmatism can cause eye strain, headaches, and difficulties with depth perception, which can pose challenges on the job. As such, pilots with astigmatism should get frequent checkups to ensure their vision remains within regulatory limits.
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Ways to Overcome Astigmatism

Contact lenses

Contact lenses are a common solution for pilots with astigmatism. There are special toric lenses made for correcting astigmatism, which can be soft or hard, depending on someone’s preferences. Soft lenses tend to be more comfortable and require less adaptation time than hard lenses. Moreover, contact lenses are ideal for pilots who cannot undergo refractive surgery. They offer flexibility, comfort, and a wider field of vision compared to glasses.

Laser eye surgery

Laser eye surgery is another option for pilots with astigmatism. It is an effective and permanent solution that changes the shape of someone’s cornea to correct astigmatism. The most common types of laser surgery used to correct astigmatism are LASIK and PRK. However, pilots who opt for this alternative should wait for some time before getting back to work, as their vision may be blurry or distorted shortly after surgery. Moreover, pilots seeking laser surgery are often required to wait six months to a year after surgery before returning to the cockpit.

Other Considerations

Medical certificate

Pilots must obtain a medical certificate from certified aviation medical examiners to prove that they meet all the requirements for the job, including the vision standards. The certificate is valid for specific periods, and pilots must go for periodic check-ups to renew them. Pilots with astigmatism should ensure they provide all necessary medical information to the examiner, and the certificate is up-to-date.

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Astigmatism can affect an individual’s ability to perform a job safely, including flying a plane. As such, pilots with astigmatism could face higher insurance premiums than their counterparts who don’t have the condition. It is important to consult with an insurance broker to discuss the cost implications of having astigmatism and ways to reduce any extra costs.


Astigmatism can pose challenges to pilots as it affects vision, which is a critical component of the job. However, good news is that pilots with astigmatism can meet the regulatory vision requirements provided their eyesight can be corrected to 20/20 or 20/40. Furthermore, there are options to overcome astigmatism, such as using contact lenses or undergoing laser eye surgery. Pilots with astigmatism can also take other measures like frequent check-ups and providing reliable medical information to their examiners to ensure their certificates are up-to-date.

Overall, having astigmatism does not disqualify one from being a pilot, as long as they meet the required vision standards and pass all the necessary exams and checkups. Therefore, pilots with astigmatism can pursue their dream careers and make substantial contributions to the aviation industry, just like their counterparts who do not have the condition.

Claude E. Walker

By Claude E. Walker

With a pen in one hand and a pilot's heart in the other, Claude takes flight through the power of words, crafting tales that soar through the skies. From breathtaking airshow experiences to historical aviation wonders, he weaves stories that leave readers with a sense of awe and a burning desire to take flight. Buckle up and get ready for a literary journey among the clouds!

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