Having poor vision is not a limitation for anyone from joining the US military, provided the problem can be solved by wearing contact lenses, eyeglasses or vision correction surgery. Every military branch has different rules on vision problems and correction methods as some permit wearing on the field while others do not. Colored contact lenses and eyeglasses are not allowed while in uniform or on duty. While contact lenses are considered more convenient compared to glasses, they might have a few demerits when deployed on a field mission in certain places.
Wearing contact lenses in extremely cold places might trigger sticking and freezing to the eye. Military operations often occur in cold regions therefore, this is a crucial factor to consider when buying contact lenses. When exposed to longer hours of cold while wearing contact lenses, the cornea might be damaged. If you have poor vision and working in the field, it is best to have glasses on instead of contact lenses. Some units outright internally issue orders to not use them at all in the field and are willing to NJP troops who disobey.
A research was conducted to determine the effects of cold weather on contact lenses. The researchers used the lenses on rabbits then exposed them to -28.90 C and 78m/h winds for three hours. During the exposure, no permanent damages were noticed. Three of the animals had minor epithelial damage that resolved itself within the day. Nonetheless, it is important to avoid long hours of exposure to cold and windy environments if you have contact lenses on.
Similarly, when contact lenses are worn in extremely high temperatures, they may be affected differently. The contact lenses will dry faster than normal, especially if the area is also windy. Dry eyes are uncomfortable and might result in rubbing or redness. This is one of the reasons experts do not recommend wearing contact lenses in the field during combat or when touring arid areas. Additionally, when exposed to certain types of radiation from welding, the contact lens temperature might increase immensely, leading to extreme discomfort. As a soldier, you should always seek eye correction methods that offer the best comfort for field missions in different climatic regions.
Some studies have proven that low atmospheric pressure has negative effects on individuals with contact lenses. Subjects in the study developed debris around the tear film after three hours of exposure to low atmospheric pressure. The subjects experienced unusual eye irritation and discomfort. Although the subjects did not indicate reduced cornea thickness, their visual acuity was reduced significantly. From the study, it was derived that wearing contact lenses when operating in areas with low atmospheric pressure is dangerous and should be avoided. In severe cases, low atmospheric pressure can lead to photophobia, pronounced ciliary injection, and significant discomfort.
While the US military does not restrict anyone from wearing medicated contact lenses, soldiers have an obligation to choose the best option for their eye problems. Contact lenses require high maintenance and might be costlier than eyeglasses. Experts recommend that contact lens users be extra careful since improper handling can lead to more eye damage. Furthermore, field missions usually involve firing your service weapon, and there might be no time for the lenses’ maintenance. The best and most convenient way of dealing with eye problems is eye surgery or wearing doctor-approved glasses, or order lens inserts for your issued ESS eye pro. Contact lenses barely transmit oxygen to the eye, and it can be a challenge to adapt to them. For most individuals, wearing them for long hours throughout the day might trigger irritation and redness. However, if you would rather wear contact lenses, it is best to save them for when you’re out in town.