Wearing glasses or contacts is a fact of life for millions of people, including many scuba divers. But what can you do about improving your eyesight underwater? Glasses can’t be worn when diving because they will interfere with your mask sealing to your face, so where is the nearsighted diver to turn?
If your eyesight is not too bad, you can try diving without any corrective lenses. As long as you can still read your gauges, see your dive buddies, and read hand signals, you should be okay. If you can legally drive a car without glasses, you should be able to safely dive without them as well. Check with your optometrist for the final word.
For those who risk bumping into the furniture when going without their glasses, there are a few other options to explore. If you dive frequently, consider a custom mask. These special order masks work just like prescription glasses and allow you to see underwater without worry. If you travel, it’s a good idea to have a second prescription mask as a backup. If you were to lose or break your mask while on a trip and didn’t have a backup, your whole dive plan could be ruined.
Many nearsighted divers ask if they can wear their regular contact lenses underwater. The answer to that depends on the type of lenses worn. Hard or gas-permeable contact lenses should not be worn while diving as they will cause discomfort under pressure. Soft contacts are fine, with a few caveats:
- Don’t open your eyes if your mask floods, or if you take your mask off in the water. One or both lenses could wash out of your eye.
- Bring your rewetting eyedrops with you in your dive bag, along with saline solution to rinse your lenses after the dive and get any salt off them.
- Consider keeping a small supply of one-time use disposable lenses on hand. These can be ordered from your optometrist or through an online eyewear retailer. You wear them once, then throw them away, eliminating the worry of having to clean your lenses after the dive.
- Always carry a spare pair of contacts in a case and saline for a backup.
- Make sure your dive buddies know you are wearing contact lenses. In the event that the worst happens and you lose both lenses, they should be prepared to help you get to the surface.
For those who need help seeing up close, you can even have a bifocal option. Purchase small, stick-on magnifiers for your mask. These act as a bifocal lens, allowing you to read your gauges while not interfering with your distance vision.
If you’ve had or are considering Lasik or other corrective eye surgery, you can dive afterwards — just be sure to plan for adequate healing time. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the specifics of scuba diving after surgery. There are plenty of options for the nearsighted diver to get in the water and still enjoy all the sights the ocean world has to offer.