Can Someone With Glaucoma Become a Pilot?

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Original publication date: March 3, 2024
Last Updated: March 7, 2024
Author: Max Skyler
Topic: Flight Physiology, Vision
Number of Comments: 0

Being diagnosed with glaucoma does not automatically sound the death knell on your aviation career, in and of itself. While a glaucoma diagnosis does constitute grounds for your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) to deny you a medical certificate, the good news is that approval versus denial is not entirely black and white. Depending on the type and severity of visual glaucoma-induced impairment that you are at risk for, there may be a path for you to seek treatment and get you back in the pilot’s seat again.

As a private pilot with myopia, I recently went for a routine eye exam at my local optometrist. During the exam, the doctor checked me for signs of glaucoma. While there were no red flags, she did want to continue to monitor me for elevated eye pressure due to potential fluid build-up. That got me concerned: Would this put my pilot license at risk?

If you are reading this, perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma and you want to know whether you can fly, and if so, how do you go about navigating the red tape at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure that you pass your next aviation medical exam.

That’s why I have put together this comprehensive guide, to help you navigate your journey with glaucoma and to help you get into the cockpit as pilot-in-command.

What can pilots with glaucoma expect?

Photo courtesy of The National Institute of Health

Being diagnosed with glaucoma is not just a personal health concern, but constitutes a veritable hurdle in meeting the stringent pilot vision requirements set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Pursuing a career in aviation demands adherence to critical aviation medical standards, especially concerning your ocular health. This resource guide illuminates the avenues available to individuals grappling with glaucoma who are striving to achieve FAA medical certification and embrace aviation, be it as a hobby or as a profession.

With the progression of glaucoma potentially affecting visual acuity and field, one must understand the FAA’s comprehensive assessment process. This evaluative path delves deep into determining whether your vision, despite the condition, can withstand the rigors of acting as pilot-in-command of an aircraft. FAA medical certification, a cornerstone requirement for all aspiring pilots, requires that specific benchmarks be met to ensure that the highest degree of aviation safety is upheld.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the seriousness of glaucoma in the context of pilots’ vision and safety requirements.
  • Recognize the FAA’s stringent evaluation process for granting medical certifications to pilots with glaucoma.
  • Acknowledge the possibility of obtaining a special issuance medical certification under certain conditions if you have glaucoma.
  • Stay current with the latest updates and medical standards regarding glaucoma in the world of aviation.
  • Prepare for a comprehensive medical review using FAA Form 8500-14 as part of the certification process if glaucoma is present.

Understanding Glaucoma and its Impact on Piloting

When considering the rigorous demands of aviation, understanding the implications of certain health conditions becomes pivotal for maintaining standards of flight safety. Glaucoma, a stealthy condition that threatens your vision, is no exception. Let’s delve into how this eye disorder could potentially alter the course of a pilot’s career, hinder aviation safety, and ultimately impact the wider spectrum of pilot eye health.

What is Glaucoma and How Does it Affect Vision

At the core of glaucoma symptoms lies the gradual detriment of the optic nerve, an essential component of clear vision. Often linked to increased ocular pressure, glaucoma can lead to irreversible vision loss. It’s a condition that progresses insidiously, sometimes without noticeable symptoms until significant damage has occurred. This aspect underscores the importance of regular eye health evaluations for pilots, ensuring their visual aptitude conforms to the stringent standards of aviation safety.

The Risks of Flying with Glaucoma

For a profession where alertness and precise visual interpretation are the cornerstones of safety, any impediment to visual clarity can be a red flag. Glaucoma, by diminishing peripheral vision, could render a pilot less capable of perceiving crucial visual cues, thereby increasing the risk of in-flight errors. Should a pilot experience extreme vision loss from unchecked glaucoma, the implications can be severe—not only for the individual’s career but also for the paramount concern of passenger and public safety. The National Institute of Health conducted a study on the impact of long-haul flights on glaucoma. If you are cleared to fly, then it is imperative that pilots take appropriate medical treatment for glaucoma, and in fact to keep it readily available on-hand during flight.

Proactivity Regarding Ophthalmic Health Is Non-Negotiable

Visual acuity and field loss present substantial barriers in the aviation industry. With essential tasks such as scanning instrument panels, maintaining a visual outlook during maneuvering, and ensuring safe takeoff and landing operations, even a minor loss in these visual faculties could result in critical safety lapses. Glaucoma tragically excels in corroding these abilities, often leading to the jeopardization of a pilot’s license and impinging upon the overarching ethos of aviation safety.

In light of these considerations, if you’re a pilot or aspiring aviator, a proactive stance on ophthalmic health is non-negotiable. Be vigilant about glaucoma symptoms, prioritize regular comprehensive eye examinations, and remain informed about the latest advancements in the management of this condition to guard not only your vision but the skies you navigate.

FAA Regulations and the Path to a Medical Certificate

Navigating the FAA regulations for medical certification is a critical step for anyone aiming to pilot an aircraft. Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) play a key role in this process, particularly for individuals with conditions such as glaucoma. Understanding the requirements of Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) on special issuance and the necessary ophthalmological evaluations is essential. The following information outlines these important aspects, ensuring you are well-prepared for the path ahead.

Ocular Health Requirements According To The FAA

The table below lists the different classes of aviation medical certificates required based on the type of flight operations being performed:

Class of Medical CertificateFederal Aviation RegulationsType of Flight Operation
1st Class Medical14 CFR 67.103(e)Airline Transport Pilots
2nd Class Medical14 CFR 67.203(e)Commercial Pilots
3rd Class Medical14 CFR 67.303(e)Private Pilots
BasicMed14 CFR 68.3Private / Recreational Pilots

The Role of FAA’s Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs)

AMEs are the gatekeepers of pilot health and safety, operating under strict FAA regulations to evaluate the medical fitness of aviators. Their assessments determine a pilot’s ability to safely control an aircraft, incorporating extensive evaluation of vision health for those affected by glaucoma.

Special Issuance Section of Part 67 and Glaucoma

Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) details the medical standards that pilots must adhere to, in order to be deemed medically fit to fly. These include the provisions for what is known as a special issuance medical certificate for pilots with glaucoma. This is particularly relevant for pilots with glaucoma, as it allows for individual considerations under specific medical circumstances, authorizing pilot certification on a case-by-case basis.

Required Ophthalmological Evaluations for Pilots with Glaucoma

A stringent ophthalmological evaluation is imperative for pilots with glaucoma, aiming to comprehensively assess the impact of the condition on one’s vision. The FAA’s Ophthalmological Evaluation For Glaucoma (Form 8500-14) is a critical document, representing a thorough investigation into the health of your eyes and the stability of your condition.

Ophthalmological Evaluation ComponentDescription and Importance
Visual Acuity TestAn assessment to determine the sharpness of your central vision, critical for reading instruments and navigating.
Visual Field TestEvaluates the full horizontal and vertical range of your vision, ensuring no significant field loss that could impair flight safety.
Intraocular Pressure MeasurementChecks for abnormal pressure in the eyes, a potential indicator of glaucoma progression and a risk to vision health.
Optic Nerve AnalysisDetailed imaging to assess the health of the optic nerve and identify potential glaucoma-induced damage.

By diligently undergoing the necessary evaluations and working closely with your AME, you can navigate FAA regulations, and take to the skies with a medical certificate that attests to your capability of piloting safely, despite the challenges of glaucoma.

Navigating the Medical Certification Process with Glaucoma

FAA medical certification process for pilots with glaucoma

Whether you are already a pilot or you are aiming to become one, managing glaucoma is essential for maintaining medical certification. The importance of glaucoma management in aviation cannot be overstated, as it directly impacts your ability to undergo the FAA application process successfully. To ensure the highest level of aviation safety, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates strict guidelines for medical certification, particularly for pilots with this condition.

Understanding the steps required for certification will aid in a smoother process:

  1. Initial consultation with your ophthalmologist to assess the extent of glaucoma and determine a management plan.
  2. Diligent adherence to your prescribed treatment to control intraocular pressures.
  3. Regular monitoring and documentation of your condition to ensure negligible or no visual field loss.
  4. Collection of all medical records and reports that verify your stable condition.

Having meticulously followed through on these steps, your next objective is to prepare for the medical examination by an AME.

Ophthalmological Evaluation for GlaucomaTo present a comprehensive report of your glaucoma statusCritical for establishing medical fitness
Documentation of Intraocular Pressure ControlTo prove the effectiveness of glaucoma treatment over timeEssential for Special Issuance evaluation
Visual Field Test ResultsTo demonstrate the extent of peripheral vision preservationRequired to assess visual standards for safe piloting
Medication RecordsTo provide details about medications and dosagesEnsures tolerance and side-effects do not impair piloting abilities

Your AME will review these materials and may issue Special Issuance certification if your condition is under control and meets safety standards. Keep in mind that if there’s any significant visual field loss or fluctuation in intraocular pressures, these could be potential grounds for certification deferral or denial.

Finally, familiarize yourself with the latest FAA updates and amendments regarding medical certification standards as they pertain to glaucoma. Keeping abreast of the guidelines will better prepare you for any additional requirements that may affect your certification status.

Remember, while navigating the medical certification process, your proactive approach to glaucoma management and understanding of the FAA application process are indispensable for your ambition to take flight, ensuring the safety of yourself and those who will trust you to navigate the skies.

The Special Issuance Certification for Glaucoma Affected Pilots

For pilots diagnosed with glaucoma, obtaining the necessary FAA medical certification hinges upon careful monitoring and management of their condition. Understanding the differences between primary and secondary glaucoma is vital when it comes to Special Issuance certification eligibility.

Primary vs. Secondary Glaucoma: Certification Eligibility

With primary glaucoma, characterized by its slow progression and the absence of an underlying eye condition, pilots may still fly if they can prove their situation is stable and well-managed. However, secondary glaucoma — stemming from other eye ailments or injuries — can pose greater challenges. Pilots are then tasked with demonstrating that their secondary glaucoma is under control and that flight safety will not be compromised.

Potential for Certification Post-Surgery

Those who have undergone glaucoma surgery, such as a laser iridectomy or trabeculectomy, may be optimistic about the possibility of Special Issuance certification. Post-operative stability and successful control of intraocular pressure could lead to FAA approval for these pilots, assuming all other visual standards are met.

Conditions for Special Issuance: Controlling Ocular Pressure

Controlling ocular pressure is the cornerstone of managing glaucoma in pilots. Effective treatment plans combining medication and lifestyle alterations offer a pathway to Special Issuance certification. Consistent care and comprehensive reporting are essential for maintaining one’s standing as a certified pilot with glaucoma.

Type of GlaucomaTreatmentEligibility for Special Issuance
Primary Open-Angle GlaucomaMedication, Laser TherapyEligible with documented control of condition
Secondary GlaucomaUnderlying condition treatment, MedicationCase-by-case basis depending on control and stability
Post-Surgical GlaucomaPost-operative care, Ongoing assessmentEligible with successful surgery outcome and consistent monitoring

Understanding the role Special Issuance certification plays in a pilot’s career, especially when facing medical challenges like primary or secondary glaucoma, is paramount. Staying informed and prepared for the necessary procedures following glaucoma surgery can make all the difference for pilots who wish to fly. Through diligent control of ocular pressure and regular assessments, the skies remain within reach for those affected by glaucoma.

Case-by-Case Aviation Considerations for Pilots with Glaucoma

When it comes to aviation medical decisions, particularly in the context of pilots with glaucoma, the FAA adopts a case-by-case evaluation approach. This diligent scrutiny ensures that every pilot’s unique medical condition is given the attention it deserves and that safety is never compromised. If you are a pilot with glaucoma, understanding these intricate glaucoma considerations is pivotal for both your career and the safety of those flying with you.

Application Process for Medical Certification

The FAA has published the guidelines governing the examination techniques and the criteria by which to determine whether a pilot’s bout with glaucoma falls within the parameters for disqualification to earn a medical certificate.

Let’s delve into the various aspects that the FAA examines during their assessment:

  • Stability of the glaucoma condition post-surgery
  • Effectiveness of glaucoma medications
  • Visual field testing results

These components are critical as they gauge the progression of the disease and its potential impact on your ability to pilot an aircraft safely.

FactorImportanceImpact on Certification
Condition StabilityEnsures the disease is not progressing unfavorablyPotential for Special Issuance certification if stable
Medication EffectivenessControl of intraocular pressure to prevent further damageRequired to show maintained pressure within limits
Visual Field IntegrityPresence of adequate peripheral vision for flyingNo significant visual field loss allows for higher likelihood of approval

The FAA’s meticulous process may seem daunting, but it ensures that pilots with glaucoma are evaluated fairly, aligning with the high standards expected of medical fitness in aviation. Your diligent management of glaucoma and adherence to medical guidelines can facilitate your journey to maintaining or obtaining your medical certificate and continuing your passion for flying.

Glaucoma, Your Health, And Your Aviation Life

When you are diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s not only your health that needs careful management; your flying career must be meticulously navigated to ensure adherence to aviation safety standards. Recognizing the flight limitations that accompany glaucoma is crucial for the continuity and longevity of your aviation venture. Below, we discuss how glaucoma medication and night vision considerations play a pivotal role in the operational adjustments and restrictions you might face as a pilot.

Limitations and Restrictions for Glaucoma-diagnosed Pilots

Flight limitations for pilots with glaucoma are inherently linked to the condition’s impact on visual capabilities. The FAA may implement restrictions based on the extent of visual impairment, ensuring that safety is not compromised during flights. These restrictions can span from the type of aircraft you may fly, to the time of day when you’re permitted to pilot an airplane.

Operational Adjustments for Pilots Managing Glaucoma

Operational adjustments serve as proactive means to maintain high safety standards. Modifying cockpit procedures to compensate for reduced peripheral vision, or scheduling flights during times when visual clarity is at its peak, exemplifies adjustments that you might encounter. These are tailored to mitigate the risks associated with glaucoma, ensuring that your performance is not hindered by your medical condition.

FAA’s Consideration of Medication and Night Vision Impact

The medications used to manage glaucoma, especially miotic drugs, can negatively affect your night vision. Consequently, the FAA examines the effect of glaucoma medication on a case-by-case basis. If your medication is found to impair your night vision substantially, the FAA may place night flight limitations on your medical certificate to ensure that your flying does not pose a threat to aviation safety.

Type of Glaucoma MedicationPotential Visual Side EffectsFAA Consideration
Miotic AgentsDiminished night vision, narrowed visual fieldsPossible night flying restrictions
Beta-blockersMild visual disturbancesRoutine monitoring without direct limitations
Carbonic Anhydrase InhibitorsOccasionally blurred visionAssessment of visual clarity before flight

While confronting the reality of glaucoma as a pilot involves various considerations and potential modifications to your flying practices, it does not signify an end to your aviation life. With correct management, ongoing communication with the FAA, and adherence to prescribed treatments, you can aim to maintain the clear skies of safe flight operations.

FAA’s CACI Worksheet: Simplifying the Certification for Pilots

The FAA’s commitment to a streamlined certification process has been significantly bolstered by the CACI (Conditions Aviation Medical Examiners Can Issue) worksheet. This tool is indispensable, particularly for pilots managing glaucoma. It delineates the necessary medical information required for certification, saving you time and simplifying the cumbersome process traditionally associated with FAA approval. Through the adoption of the CACI worksheet, pilots with certain health conditions are presented with a clear path to maintaining their passion for the skies.

Download the Conditions Aviation Medical Examiners Can Issue Worksheet here.

Here’s how the CACI worksheet operates to align with stringent FAA guidelines while ensuring a more efficient certification experience:

  • The worksheet serves as a transparent checklist for your treating physician and the Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).
  • All relevant details regarding your glaucoma condition need to be accurately documented on the worksheet.
  • It mitigates the necessity for direct FAA review and approval in certain cases, sparing you from the daunting bureaucratic web.
  • Updated information post-July 1, 2016, ensures you are utilizing the most current metrics for certification eligibility.

Below is a detailed table illustrating the necessary components of the CACI Glaucoma Worksheet that pertain to the certification process:

Required InformationDescriptionPurpose
DiagnosisType of glaucoma and date of diagnosisDetermines condition specifics and longevity
TreatmentCurrent medication and any surgical historyAssesses management and stability of condition
Ocular PressureRecorded intraocular pressure readingsMonitors risk factors for disease progression
Visual AcuityCorrected and uncorrected vision measurementsEvaluates the pilot’s capacity for visual demands
Field of VisionResults from visual field testsConfirms the extent of any functional limitations

The introduction of the CACI worksheet indeed marks a significant leap forward in FAA guidelines, enabling you to take the next step toward your aviation aspirations with confidence and ease.

The CACI worksheet must be supported by an accompanying Clinical Progress Note, to be filled out no later than 90 days prior to your AME exam.

Renewals and Maintenance of Certification with Glaucoma

As a pilot with glaucoma, your journey toward continual flight readiness involves a diligent commitment to certification renewal and health management. To successfully navigate this process, it is essential to understand the recertification protocols, how proactive health management plays a crucial role in your flying career, and the benefits of the AASI process. Let’s delve into what these entail and how they contribute to your long-term certification and safety in the skies.

The Recertification Process Explained

To maintain your medical certificate’s validity with glaucoma, staying ahead of the recertification process is key. This entails a periodic review of your medical status and ensuring that any changes in your condition are meticulously reported. You’re required to adhere to the specifications set out in your Special Issuance authorization, which may include updates on treatment efficacy and ongoing glaucoma monitoring. It’s imperative to be aware of your recertification schedule and to prepare the necessary paperwork well in advance to avoid any lapses in your certification status.

Proactive Health Management for Pilots with Glaucoma

Proactive health management is non-negotiable when it comes to mitigating the risks of glaucoma affecting your pilot duties. This necessitates regular consultations with your ophthalmologist, compliance with prescribed treatments, and vigilant monitoring of any symptomatic changes. By actively managing your health, you not only safeguard your vision but also assert your commitment to aviation safety standards essential for every flying professional.

AME Assisted Special Issuance (AASI) and Long-Term Certification

The AME Assisted Special Issuance (AASI) process stands as a testament to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) dedication to pilots who, despite health challenges like glaucoma, demonstrate an unwavering capacity to meet the stringent demands of flying. Your Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) can re-issue your medical certificate under the AASI if you consistently meet the FAA’s predefined criteria concerning your condition. This collaboration with your AME highlights the synergistic approach needed for your certification renewal, thereby allowing you a smoother trajectory in your flying career.

Flying With Glaucoma

The journey of an aspiring pilot with glaucoma has transformed from an uphill battle to a path aligned with the centerline hope due to significant glaucoma advancements and a forward-thinking approach in aviation medicine. While challenges remain, your determination to pursue an aviation career must be matched with a commitment to proactively manage your health and adhere to the FAA’s stringent standards. With the right medical guidance and a rigorous evaluation process, you can indeed soar to new heights.

Embracing the Possibility of Flying with Glaucoma

You are not alone on this flight. The cusp of modern treatment options and diligent regulation has unveiled new horizons for individuals with glaucoma in aviation. The enforcement of comprehensive management strategies ensures that your condition is controlled and monitored, paving the way for you, as a future pilot, to achieve what was once considered unattainable. Stay abreast of developments within the FAA guidelines and maintain open channels of communication with Aviation Medical Examiners, as these practices are paramount in your quest to fly.

Advancements in Aviation Medicine and Glaucoma Management

Medicine is ever-progressing, and with each advancement, doors open wider for those affected by glaucoma to participate in the field of aviation. The integration of new technologies and treatment modalities into FAA protocols offers promise, not just in the controlled management of the condition but also in fostering safer flying environments for all. Embrace these advancements as they come, for they hold the potential to enhance your career trajectory and safety in the skies.

Key Takeaways for Aspiring Pilots with Glaucoma

Your vision of an aviation career need not be grounded by glaucoma. By aligning yourself with the latest medical directives and leveraging advancements in eye care, the dream of obtaining a pilot’s medical certificate is more realistic than ever. Remain vigilant in the management of your health, stay informed about industry changes, and most importantly, let your passion for flying be the guiding star on this venture. The skies await your command, as you exemplify the epitome of resilience and adaptation.


Can someone with glaucoma become a pilot?

Yes, individuals with glaucoma can become a pilot, but they must meet FAA medical certification standards, which assess their ability to maintain aviation safety. Under the FAA’s special issuance process, pilots with well-managed glaucoma may be granted a medical certificate to fly.

What is glaucoma and how does it affect vision?

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve and is often associated with high intraocular pressure. It can lead to progressive vision loss, particularly in the peripheral visual fields, and can impact a pilot’s ability to safely operate an aircraft.

What are the risks of flying with glaucoma?

Flying with glaucoma poses the risk of impaired vision, which is critical for safe piloting. Reduced visual acuity and visual field loss can undermine a pilot’s ability to perform tasks such as navigation, spotting traffic, and landing, especially in demanding conditions.

How do FAA’s aviation medical examiners evaluate pilots with glaucoma?

FAA’s Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) evaluate pilots with glaucoma by assessing their current eye health, progression of the disease, medical treatments, and how well they manage the condition, which includes ophthalmological evaluations and FAA Form 8500-14.

What is the special issuance section of Part 67 and how does it relate to pilots with glaucoma?

The special issuance section of Part 67 refers to protocols established by the FAA to authorize medical certificates on a case-by-case basis for conditions like glaucoma that might otherwise disqualify a pilot. Under this section, individuals may receive authorization if their condition is stable and well-managed.

What ophthalmological evaluations are required for pilots with glaucoma?

Pilots with glaucoma are required to submit a comprehensive Ophthalmological Evaluation for Glaucoma, which includes documentation of their condition’s stability, the effectiveness of treatment, and visual field measurements.

How is certification eligibility determined for pilots with primary or secondary glaucoma?

Certification eligibility is determined by the FAA on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the type, progression, and control of the glaucoma. Patients with narrow-angle glaucoma are at higher risk of denial, while those with well-controlled open-angle glaucoma might be eligible for special issuance certification.

What are the conditions for special issuance certification for controlling ocular pressure?

For special issuance certification, pilots must prove their ocular pressure is under control with acceptable intraocular pressures, negligible or no visual field loss, and tolerated medications in suitable doses.

What limitations and restrictions might apply to pilots diagnosed with glaucoma?

Pilots with glaucoma may face limitations such as restrictions on night flying or certain types of operations based on the severity and symptoms of their condition, as well as potential side effects from medications that could impair their vision, such as miotics.

How does the FAA’s CACI Worksheet streamline the certification process for pilots with glaucoma?

The CACI Worksheet provides a checklist for both treating physicians and AMEs to document the pilot’s condition and treatment effectively, allowing office certification without the necessity for direct FAA review, which streamlines the process for pilots with glaucoma.

What is involved in the recertification process for pilots with glaucoma?

Pilots with glaucoma must provide periodic updates on their condition, including medical evaluations and treatment progress, to maintain their FAA medical certificate. The recertification process depends on the stability and control of their glaucoma as outlined in their Special Issuance authorization.

How critical is proactive health management for pilots with glaucoma?

Proactive health management is crucial for pilots with glaucoma, as maintaining optimal eye health and adhering to treatment regimens are key to meeting FAA standards and ensuring safety in aviation operations.

What is the AASI process, and how does it affect long-term certification for pilots with glaucoma?

The AASI (AME Assisted Special Issuance) process enables Aviation Medical Examiners to re-issue medical certificates for pilots with glaucoma, based on compliance with criteria set in their FAA Authorization. This process is part of continued adherence to safety protocols and is a critical aspect of maintaining certification over the long term.

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Max Skyler

Max Skyler is a Private Pilot with nearly 200 hours of total flight time under his belt. He is a freelance writer for Flying is not his day job. (He's into computers.) But flying is among his passions and hobbies. He just passed his instrument ground school course, and is getting ready to take the IFR written exam as we speak, in early January 2024! He hopes to earn his instrument writing within a year. We've brought him onto our team to share his insights on all-things general aviation, with our community of readers. Let's wish him good luck on his instrument written exam!

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