Altitude and eye surgery; Lasik, PRK, or nothing?

  • Creator
  • #13311
    Colin Simon

    I am considering getting corrective eye surgery to improve my vision, but the doctor brought up complications when visiting altitude.

    He mentioned that cornea swelling can be greater at altitude with Lasik than with PRK, and that both surgeries can contribute to greater swelling (cloudy, blurry vision) than using good old fashioned glasses.

    Does anyone have more data on this? I plan to make many more visits to 6000 and 7000m peaks and would prefer to be able to see them!

  • Participant
    Colin Simon on #13312

    Additionally, for climbing in general, I’m curious what experiences people can draw.

    I am near-sighted, and don’t even want to imagine doing runout climbing without the ability to pick out tiny details in the rock.

    mike on #13338

    Back in 2002 or early 2003, I had lasik. The summer of 2003, I climbed Denali with zero eye problems. I was early 40s at the time. After wearing glasses/contacts since high school, I found lasik to be one of the better decisions I have made! Running, skiing, climbing, reading the clock at night, sweating, without worries of glasses falling off or sweating running down them or dirt in contacts, are what I experienced. I had mono vision done, which made one eye for distance and one for close/reading. I did have some halo issues around lights at night. The mono vision did allow me to not need reading glasses until the last few years. When I complained about needing reading glasses when I was 53-53, the eye doc said the average age for readers is 40…

    Steve House on #13354

    Hi Colin,
    I had lasik in 2002 or 3. Best. Thing. Ever.

    I had a minor correction, -1.75, no astigmastism, pretty straightforward near-sightedness. Every diagnosis is different, but i’m very glad I did it after years of contacts/glasses.

    I don’t know if there is more data now on altitude issues, there may be a statistical difference, Mike and I are only 2 cases, but i’ve been really happy with the results.

    I had to bow down to reading glasses just this past month, I’m 48 now.

    psathyrella on #13394

    I had lasik three years ago, and 100% agree: best freaking thing ever. Utter magic.

    My eyesight wasn’t terrible, but I needed glasses to drive and do computer stuff. It was entirely astigmatism. I haven’t been to significant altitude, and I’m too lazy to re-google, but my recollection of the altitude problems that the internet frequently mentioned was that they seemed to mostly stem from one incident in which a patient went to everest something like a week after an older version of prk without telling their surgeon, and was otherwise mostly hypothetical.

    Improving my footwork (rock shoes or crampons) was one of the biggest benefits, since I can now see/find feet so much more quickly, and much more accurately judge the subtleties of angle and texture that are so important to staying on.

    Finally, I definitely have a bit of halo around headlights when driving at night sometimes (I think when I’m tired), and I think maybe it wasn’t there before? But it is utterly inconsequential compared to being able to see essentially perfectly 24 hours a day with no glasses.

    Chet on #13409

    As an ophthalmologist and ski mountaineer (but no longer alpine climber) living in CO, my professional opinion is that LASIK and PRK have minimal high altitude affect/risk or impact on vision at altitude…..only thing to avoid is “RK” [radial keratometry] which was the Beck Weathers Everest blurry vision issue….certain issues with strong prescriptions or thin corneas may affect which of LASIK or PRK (same laser done on the surface or under a flap of the cornea)is more appropriate…..if you want to talk, I’d be happy to… ……Yo, Chet

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