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Prescription Masks: How to decide what's best for you

Matt Everett   Aug 09, 2023

We get lots of questions from individuals who wear glasses about what options exist for
correcting vision while diving and snorkeling. Most people are surprised at how common the
situation is, a majority of our instructors wear glasses! Unfortunately, you cannot wear glasses while diving or snorkeling because the mask wouldn't seal against your face but there are a few different options for how to handle improving your vision underwater. 

The first thing to know is that water magnifies your vision but does not correct it: objects will appear larger but not clearer. Some people find that the natural magnification of the water helps them observe animals and the underwater environment without the use of corrective lenses, but this only occurs with people with extremely low prescriptions. Most prescriptions can be put into 3 basic categories: distance, reading and bifocal (both distance and reading) and the two main options for vision improvement are contact lenses or prescription masks. Let's take a quick look at contact lenses before diving into the mask options. 

Contact lenses are a great way to correct vision continuously. As long as they are gas permeable, most contact lenses are compatible with diving and snorkeling but always consult your eye doctor and make sure they know you will be using them while diving or snorkeling. Our instructors Shaun and Matt both wear contacts while diving and each have done hundreds upon hundreds of dives with them. It is important to note that they both had experience wearing contacts for years before starting diving with them; some people find it difficult to adjust to wearing contacts for the first time. If you are looking into wearing contacts for the first time, make sure you get comfortable wearing them in everyday life before trying them in the water. Years ago, contacts were only able to correct for distance but thanks to technological advances, some contact models are able to correct for reading or bifocal as well! Talk to your eye doctor about options available to you. One benefit of wearing contact lenses while diving or snorkeling is that your vision remains consistent whether you have the mask on or not. With a prescription mask, your vision is only corrected while you are wearing the mask and looking through the lenses. For example, if you use a prescription mask and are on a boat approaching the dive site, you would need to put your glasses down in a safe place and immediately put on your mask to improve your vision before you put on the rest of your equipment and move to the back of the
boat, compared to wearing contacts which would allow you to hang out on the boat and gear up with corrected vision the entire time, allowing you to skip keeping track of and protecting your eye glasses. 

"I wore contacts for years before I started diving. When I looked into getting certified, I talked to my eye doctor, and he switched my contacts to a model with increased oxygen permeability so my eyes could absorb oxygen better while diving. I wear my contacts every time I go diving or snorkeling and love the improved vision I get." - Instructor Matt

As we mentioned, contacts are not for everyone so let's look at prescription mask options next. There are two main options for masks: interchangeable lenses or custom-made lenses. Here at Undersea Divers, we carry a model of mask with interchangeable lenses that allows us to pop the frame apart and physically swap out the stock lens with a prefabricated correcting lens in a matter of minutes. All we need is a copy of your prescription and a few minutes and you will be good to go! The prefabricated lenses don't come in every prescription increment, but we can usually get close to what you are looking for. The downside of this options is that the prefabricated lenses only come for distance or reading, not both. So, if you only want to correct distance or reading, this is an option. If you do not like the style of mask with interchangeable lenses or want to correct both distance and reading at the same time, you are looking at custom lenses for your mask. Another reason to get a custom lens mask is if your prescription is strong enough that they do not make prefabricated lenses. We work with a company that specializes in custom making and physically bonding glass lenses to the inside of masks for diving and snorkeling! The benefit of this option is that you can use any style or model of mask and they will put your exact prescription in. Custom lenses are more expensive compared to prefabricated lenses but having your exact prescription inside the mask and being able to correct both distance and reading is invaluable. The lenses are attached on the inside of the mask to ensure they do not get scratched or damaged during use or storage. Turnaround time for custom mask lenses is a few weeks but rush options are available for an extra fee. If you want a custom prescription mask, make sure your eye doctor puts your pupil distance on the copy of your prescription before you bring it in. 

Whether you are ready to get in the water with a prescription mask or preparing to try contacts, Undersea Divers is here to help you with all of your mask wants and needs! Stop by anytime to look at our mask options and our staff is more than happy to assist you!

**ALWAYS consult your eye doctor before wearing contacts while diving **

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