Technology update – Scleral contact lenses

Scleral lenses are the newest contact lens technology offering sharp vision along with outstanding comfort.  They are often used to treat potentially blinding eye conditions such as keratoconus, but are also a terrific alternative to normal contact lenses if dryness or comfort has been an issue in the past while wearing lenses.

What’s different about scleral lenses from normal soft contact lenses?

The name “scleral” refers to the size of the contact lens.  Instead of the lens resting on the cornea like a soft contact lens, the lens is designed larger than the cornea, allowing it to rest on the sclera (the white of the eye).  The advantage of using the sclera as a resting place instead of the cornea is what provides the improved comfort.  The sclera has few nerve receptors compared to the dense nerve network of the cornea.  Less nerve receptors being irritated by a contact lens generally means better all day comfort while wearing lenses.

The most common conditions that are treated with scleral contact lenses:

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  • Moderate to Severe dry eye
    • The lenses are inserted differently than a typical soft contact lens.  Before applying the lens to the eye, the bowl of the lens is filled with saline.  This provides hydration to the eye throughout the day without worrying about drying out mid-day.
  • Keratoconus
    • Keratoconus is a condition of the eye that causes blurred vision, even with prescription glasses. A scleral contact lens is required to improve vision in the moderate and severe stages of keratoconus.  Traditionally, hard lenses (rigid gas permeable lenses) have been used, but they may cause scarring that can be avoided with scleral contact lenses.
  • Post-LASIK eyes / Post-RK eyes / Irregular corneas
    • Many people who had refractive surgery (LASIK / PRK / RK) in the 80’s and 90’s complain about dry eyes. Scleral lenses are a great option for anyone with dryness or vision distortion after refractive surgery.  The saline in the lens fills in the irregularities from the scar tissue on the cornea and also hydrates the surface of the eye to prevent dryness.
  • Graft versus Host Disease
    • Graft versus host disease (GVHD) causes an attack on the tear glands of the eye, causing severe dryness that results in extreme pain and potential blindness.  The scleral lens is used to provide constant hydration to the eye throughout the entire day.

Ask your optometrist today if you’re a candidate for scleral contact lenses!

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Author: Dr. Brett Arnold

Dr. Brett Arnold specializes in Custom Contact Lens fitting at Suburban Eye Care in Livonia, Michigan. He graduated from Ferris State University in 2010 with a Bachelor's Degree in Vision Science and Michigan College of Optometry in 2014 with a Doctorate of Optometry. http://suburbaneyecare.com

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