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October 1, 2000


Question from Finland:

I am 35 years old and have had type 1 diabetes for 32 years. About three years ago, I was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, and have had many laser treatments in both eyes, the last of them about six months ago. I still have those black spots in my right eye which has given me the most trouble. I have been planning to fly to North America, but I am not sure should I take the risk with eyes like mine. My doctor says it's okay to fly, but at the same time, he says I should not carry any heavy things, etc. So, I'm a bit confused. How does flying affect laser-treated eyes? Are people with laser-treated eyes allowed to fly? Doesn't the pressure in the aeroplane affect the eye?


People who have proliferative diabetic eye disease may fly commercially either before laser treatment, and, surely, after laser treatment. The cabin in the plane is pressurized and does not create the same forces one may get with straining as in lifting, etc. The only scenario where flying is advised against is if you have had an eye procedure where there was an air gas exchange, and you have air in the eye. Laser treatment alone does not do this, but retinal detachment surgery or vitrectomy surgery does. If your eye doctor who treated your eye with laser says flying is okay, then he would know best.