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Pilot praises replacement lens

Editor's note: This article was updated Oct. 19 to clarify and amplify information about FAA requirements for pilots who utilize the lens described, and similar products.
A cataract-correcting replacement lens said to outperform the standard options earned the praise of an AOPA member who now seeks to pass the word to fellow pilots.
AOPA file photo.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Tecnis Symfony Intraocular Lens in July 2016, the first of a new type of intraocular lens that allows the eye to focus on objects near and distant, according to Abbott, the medical device and pharmaceutical company that produces the lens. IIllinois pilot and AOPA life member David Kleine reported good results in emails to AOPA management, and urged the association to spread the word.

Cataracts are cloudy areas in the eye’s lens that are common among older adults, according to an online reference from the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University. They may first appear when the affected person is in their 40s, but typically don’t affect vision until age 60 or later. Progression of the lens clouding typically degrades vision slowly over a period of years. More than half of Americans age 65 and older have some degree of cataract-related vision loss.

While cataracts can affect much younger people with certain metabolic disorders, or following eye trauma, those cases are comparatively rare. Another online reference, All About Vision, notes that “premium” lenses can cost an additional $1,000 or more per eye in out-of-pocket costs, depending on insurance coverage, compared to standard replacement lenses

Kleine reported across-the-board improvements in his vision following lens replacement, including near and distant vision in all light conditions, daytime and night. He wrote that the lens replacements have allowed him to dispense with contact lenses for the first time in his adult life. “The results have been incredible,” Kleine wrote in an email urging AOPA to spread the word.

Following that initial contact, AOPA staff confirmed with the FAA that the Tecnis Symfony replacement lens option is now allowed for pilots. As with similar multi-focal replacement lens products, the FAA requires a 90-day adjustment period following the procedure to confirm that normal vision has been restored and that there are no residual complications before a medical certificate can be issued. The FAA does warn, however, that these types of implants can significantly reduce night vision quality, so pilots should consider that when evaluating the use of these types of lenses.

Following the 90-day adjustment period, the FAA also requires pilots who have undergone the lens replacement procedure to submit an eye evaluation report to the aviation medical examiner, who is then authorized to issue medical certificates at the time of exam to pilots provided they are otherwise qualified. AOPA has posted additional information on this topic. AOPA members can speak with the Pilot Information Center medical certification specialists for assistance with questions about lens replacement surgery or any medical certification issues.

AOPA ePublishing staff
AOPA ePublishing Staff editors are experienced pilots, flight instructors, and aircraft owners who have a passion for bringing you the latest news and AOPA announcements.
Topics: Pilot Health and Medical Certification, Pilot Protection Services

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