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Pilot Protection Services Medical Mailbag - October Q&APilot Protection Services Medical Mailbag - October Q&A

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Jonathan Sackier
Jonathan Sackier

  • Surgeon, Clinical Professor 
  • 30 years of healthcare experience 
  • Author of the “Fly Well” column in AOPA PILOT 
  • Flying since 15 years old, owns a Columbia 400 

There are a lot of supplements on the market whose "claims" have not been subjected to the rigor of properly conducted clinical trials and therefore do not carry FDA approval - they are, in many cases, of little value. Common mythology states that blueberries improve night vision but this is based on apocryphal tales from World War Two RAF bomber pilots - my British countrymen are famous for stories! 

It is very sensible to have proper annual eye checkups, not only for near or far-sightedness but conditions that can be a real problem like glaucoma or cataracts although at 44 you are still very young! 

QUESTION: A few years ago I was diagnosed with Transient Global Amnesia and am going through the process of getting back in the air. Can you address this for your readers?

ANSWER: Transient Global Amnesia, TGA, is a tough condition and one where the name describes what happens - one fleetingly loses all memory, a frightening experience. Once other structural problems, such as stroke, have been excluded and the patient has been labeled we have a tough problem on our hands and one where AOPA's Pilot Protections Services can be a really valuable ally. First, it is very important to ascertain that this was truly the diagnosis and then one needs a list of documents to approach FAA when dealing with TGA: 

1. The entire description of how the airman presented.

2. Copies of all tests performed to confirm or refute the diagnosis

3. The airman is GROUNDED for one year from the date of the event.

4. He or she will need to provide a complete Neurological evaluation at that time together with a comment that there have been no further events since the "original" one. If the treating neurologist does not provide a letter that suffices, the airman can be in a tricky situation.

5. If there are any indications of cardiovascular disease, one will also need to provide an echocardiogram and maximal stress test, but these only need be done if the history warrants it. 

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QUESTION: I'm a 44 year old pilot, athletic, no health problems, but I've noticed my vision deteriorate requiring spectacles over the past few years. Although I can pass the medical I am keen to know if there are any supplements proven to work for maintaining or improving vision?

ANSWER: In general, as long as one eats a well-balanced diet all the essential elements, vitamins, amino acids and so on are taken care of - one really has to either eat a quirky diet or have a gastrointestinal issue that impacts absorption to be at risk of any serious deficiency that can impact vision.

Jonathan Sackier

Jonathan Sackier

Dr. Jonathan Sackier is an expert in aviation medical concerns and helps members with their needs through the AOPA Pilot Protection Services plan.

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