May 2015

Diving with Poor Eyesight

By Mike Waddington

During your Open Water level training, you will learn that water magnifies objects underwater, making them seem larger and closer. For divers with mild vision problems (like myself) the magnifying effect of the water may help correct vision so it is no longer a problem. Approximately 75% of people will have some vision problems to different degrees. But what about those of us who rely heavily on glasses or contact lenses to be able to complete day to day activities such as driving or watching the TV? Luckily there are a few different ways that divers can correct their vision underwater so they don’t miss any of the action!

An important thing to consider is how well do you need to be able to see in order to dive safely? Some activities such as flying fighter jets require perfect vision, but luckily diving is not one of those activities. If you are short-sighted then you will know that things start to get blurry the further away they are, which isn’t always a problem while diving, as low visibility may often be the limiting factor in how far you can see. But if you ever find yourself not being able to properly read your SPG, Dive computer, or not be able to see your buddies hand signals then you should consider correcting your vision by either using soft contact lenses or a prescription mask.

Unfortunately, a diver cannot wear eyeglasses underwater because the earpieces of the glasses will break the seal of the mask, causing it to leak. Even if you could force the mask to seal over the earpieces the mask would push the nose piece of the glasses into the diver’s face, which would be incredibly uncomfortable.

What are my best options?
Luckily we can dive using contact lenses. Divers Alert Network (DAN) have many articles written on the subject, and they claim that scuba diving using soft contact lenses is rarely problematic. DAN however advice against using hard contact lenses as the increased water pressure may cause painful suction to the eye. They may also cause blurry vision is air bubbles become trapped between the eye and the lens. If you want to wear lenses while diving then make sure you close your eyes when flooding or removing your mask to avoid them washing away. Most divers who wear lenses will never lose them, but it is still a good idea to take a spare set on a dive trip just in case. You should also take some eye wash solution just in case the increased pressure causes your lenses to stick to your eyes.

To avoid any troubles the best option for me is to use a prescription mask. Most of the major manufacturers offer at least a couple of models that can have their lenses switched out for prescription ones. Before you buy the lenses you should have your eyes checked up again, to make sure that you order the right prescription. You will need to order the left and the right lens separately as many people have different prescriptions in each eye. The downside of this is that they are quite expensive, and as they are not readily available if you lose one your whole dive drip could be ruined! Make sure to either take a spare prescription mask with you or a regular mask and some emergency contact lenses.

My local opticians tried to sell me a prescription mask, however while the lenses were top quality, the mask build and materials used were poor, so my advice would be to find out which lenses you need, and then head down to your local dive shop and talk with them about ordering the mask with the proper lenses.

For the diver who requires reading glasses, you can also turn your mask into bi-focal lenses too! Being able to focus on the small details, such as reading the small numbers on your SPG, is just as important as being able to clearly see your buddy’s hand signals a few metres away. There are small, stick on magnifying lenses available for scuba masks. All you need to do is simply put one of these stick on lenses in the lower part of your mask lenses, and hey presto, you now have a bi focal scuba mask!

Can I dive after laser eye treatment?
Laser eye surgery is becoming increasing popular, and there is a good reason for that. Being extremely short sighted is in many ways, a (mild) disability. Nearly everyone who has it says their vision returns to almost 100% and stays that way for a long time. But remember this is also surgery. If you get laser eye treatment then you must allow your eyes time to fully recover. This amount of time can vary depending on what level of treatment they needed, and only your personal doctor can tell you when it is safe to get back into the water. I have heard some people report their surgeon told them to wait for 4 months, whereas others have been told they can get back into the water in as little as three to four weeks.

‘Diving with Poor Eyesight’ was written by Mike

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Mike Waddington

I first discovered diving in 2008 after going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. After trying diving at a flooded quarry in England I decided to head out to warmer more interesting waters in Thailand where I ended on the Island of Koh Tao completing my Open Water course. Instantly addicted with money to spend and plenty of time on my hands I decided to continue until I became a Divemaster so I could live what seemed as the perfect life.

After that I headed to the Caribbean to an island called Utila to complete my instructor course, I spent several months out there completing the MSDT internship, teaching students and leading dives. This is also where I discovered my interest in the technical side of diving, taking part in equipment repair courses and learning about blending gasses and running compressors.

With all my new qualifications it was time to head back to where it had all started, Back to Koh Tao where I intended on living the dream. Once I arrived I quickly found a job and started teaching straight away. During my time on Koh Tao I took part in all many technical diving courses, learning how to dive with re-breathers, in caves and even going down to 90m/300ft!


PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI/DSAT Tech Deep Instructor
PADI/DSAT Gas Trimix Gas Blender
PADI/DSAT Trimix Diver
TDI Intro to Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Inspiration rebreather Decompression Procedures
PADI Professional Videographer
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Equipment Service Technician

Dream Dive Locations:

Silfra, Iceland
Cenotes, Mexico
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Ice Diving in Russia