Can Scleral Lenses Reduce the Need for Corneal Transplants?
A corneal transplant is a surgical procedure in which the eye care professional replaces part of the patient’s cornea with tissue from a donor cornea. The cornea is the dome-shaped, transparent surface of the eyeball that is responsible for much of the eye’s ability to focus. Corneal transplants are often done to reduce pain and restore vision in individuals with damaged corneas, such as those with keratoconus, corneal scarring, clouding or swelling of the cornea, previous corneal ulcers, and other conditions that affect the health of the cornea.
While corneal transplant is considered a relatively safe surgery, it does carry a certain amount of risk (as do all surgeries). Possible complications of this procedure include infection, glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve caused by an increase in pressure within the eye), cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye), swelling of the cornea, and rejection of the donor tissue. These risks may be small, but they are significant, and any of these complications could be severe in rare cases. For these reasons – and because of the cost and downtime associated with surgery – a corneal transplant is best avoided when possible.
An alternative to surgery
The good news is that you may have another option. It appears that patients who use scleral contact lenses for keratoconus are significantly less likely to require a corneal transplant. Scleral lenses are custom designed contact lenses provide a uniform, regular ocular surface when worn. These large, gas-permeable contact lenses are made to form a dome over the entire surface of the cornea and rest on the conjunctiva overlying the sclera or the white part of the eye. In this way, scleral lenses effectively help bypass the corneal irregularity with a perfectly shaped, smooth optical surface that corrects vision problems associated with keratoconus and other irregularities of the cornea. The dome shape of the scleral lens also functions as a fluid reservoir, allowing those with severely dry eyes to receive hydration and lubrication provided by this reservoir.
What you should know about scleral lenses?
If you’ve never considered scleral lenses before, it may be time to ask your eye doctor if they might be right for you – especially if you have a condition that may necessitate surgery. Here are a few things about scleral lenses that you may not know.
- Scleral lenses have been around longer than other contact lenses. While soft contact lenses are considered the standard today, scleral lenses have a longer history. They first appeared on the scene back in 1887 – but have since been significantly innovated and are highly customizable.
- Scleral lenses are extremely comfortable. Even though scleral lenses are larger than other contact lenses and are more rigid, most wearers find that they are quite comfortable to wear. They do not compress or otherwise stress the eye, and the space between the lens and the cornea retains fluid for a more comfortable experience.
- Scleral lenses are affordable. Although these lenses must be custom fitted to each patient, they can indeed cost less in some cases than traditional soft lenses. Firstly, they may be covered by insurance. Also, with proper care, scleral lenses can last longer than other types of lenses.
- Scleral lenses promote healing of the eye’s surface. Scleral lenses do more than merely correct vision. They also promote healing by providing healthy moisture and hydration to the eye and protecting it from outside irritants and mechanical friction from the eyelids. They can also help reduce the need for corneal transplant surgery.
Related post: Treating Patients with Scleral Lenses
At Weston Contact Lens Institute, we offer a range of services to keep your eyes healthy and your vision sharp, including comprehensive eye exams, kids’ eye exams, contact lenses, dry eye treatments, myopia management, and emergency eye care. If you would like more information about how scleral lenses may be able to help you avoid surgery, contact us for a consultation.