Commonly-Asked Questions about Scleral Lenses and Dry Eye
Millions of people around the world suffer from dry eye, a condition in which tears in the eye are evaporating too quickly or the eye does not produce enough tears to keep it comfortably lubricated. Symptoms of dry eye (which are typically experienced by both eyes) include burning or stinging, light sensitivity, redness, difficulty wearing contact lenses, trouble with nighttime driving, and blurred vision. One solution that’s gaining a lot of traction is the use of scleral lenses for dry eyes. Here are some common questions we hear about this treatment and their answers.
Can scleral lenses help with dry eyes?
In people with dry eye disease, most contact lens problems are related to the tear film that lies over the cornea. Difficulties, such as limited wearing time and overall intolerance, are caused by the disruption of this tear film.
Strictly speaking, scleral lenses are not “contact” lenses because they do not make contact with the cornea. Because of this, however, they do not disrupt the tear film. They also create a liquid reservoir between the front of the eye and the back of the lens, ensuring that the cornea remains in a moist environment throughout the entire time the lens is worn.
Furthermore, for patients who also have irregularly-shaped corneas, the scleral lens can improve vision by providing a smooth surface that protects the eye, keeps it moist, and bypasses the irregular surface caused by tear film disruption or irregular corneal shape.
Can you wear scleral lenses overnight to help with nighttime dryness?
For many people with dry eye, their symptoms are problematic constantly, even at night. Scleral lenses help protect the eye and relieve the symptoms of dry eye. However, it is not recommended that patients sleep overnight with scleral lenses (or any contact lenses). A short nap with lenses remains debatable. When you do take your lenses out at night, be sure to clean them with an approved solution to remove deposits and kill microbes that may lead to infection.
How long can I wear my lenses each day?
When you first receive your scleral lenses, you’ll need to adapt gradually by starting with a short wear time and increasing it each day. Each person is different, so you may notice lens awareness for a shorter or longer initial period than another patient. If your eyes become red or irritated, the scleral lenses should be removed immediately and an appointment with your eye care practitioner should be scheduled. Once you have adapted to your lenses , your eye care practitioner will instruct you on how many hours you can safely wear your lens. Ultimately, you and your doctor should determine the appropriate wear time for you.
What should I do if I can’t remove the lens from my eye?
If you experience difficulty removing your scleral lenses, don’t panic. First, be sure that you are placing the plunger correctly on the lens. If you cannot establish suction, try wetting the end of the plunger. If this method doesn’t work, try pushing on the white part of your eye with your finger right beside the edge of the lens to create an air pocket under the lens and make it easier to remove with the plunger. You can also attempt to use the plunger as a lever to dislodge the lens by sliding the edge of the plunger under the edge of the lens. If you have tried all three of these methods without success, call your eye care practitioner for advice.
Why is there a ring on my eye after wearing scleral lenses?
Scleral lenses often leave these rings, known as “impression rings.” Think about removing a pair of socks or a watch; there is likely to be an impression left on the skin where the device was placed. The same thing can happen when you remove scleral lenses. It’s normal as long as it is not red or irritated and should disappear within just a few minutes. However, do talk to your eye doctor if you experience significant redness upon removing your lenses, particularly if it persists longer than five minutes or so, because it may be an indication that your lenses may need further adjustments.