How Do Scleral Lenses Work?
Scleral lenses are used to address a wide variety of eye-related complaints, including dry eye disease, keratoconus, post-surgical complications, and difficulty wearing traditional contact lenses for comfort reasons.
Scleral contact lenses are large-diameter lenses made of a special material that’s highly gas permeable (it lets oxygen through). In the strictest sense of the word, scleral lenses are not “contact” lenses because they do not make contact with the cornea. Instead, these lenses vault over the cornea, and the outer edges of the lens rests on the white of the eye (the sclera). The space between the back of the lens and the corneal surface is filled with sterile saline solution, which serves two functions: first, it keeps your eyes hydrated, and second, it fills in any corneal irregularities and, in many cases, provides superior vision compared to traditional contact lenses.
Who is a good candidate for scleral lenses?
Scleral lenses can treat many different eye conditions. These lenses are medical devices and therapeutic devices all in one, correcting your vision while allowing the eye to heal from the injury or disease affecting it. Some conditions that might indicate the use of scleral lenses include:
- Chronic dry eye
- Post-surgical complications
- A variety of other corneal and ocular conditions, such as injury from ocular trauma, burn injuries to the eye, or congenital eye abnormalities
Are scleral lenses worn continuously?
In almost all cases, scleral lenses are worn during the day and removed at night. In general, it’s never a good idea to sleep with contact lenses in your eyes, as this behavior is associated with a higher risk of infection. If you already have some type of health issue with your eyes – as is the case with most people who wear scleral lenses – then it’s especially important not to subject your eyes to further risk. There are some cases in which scleral lenses may serve as protection for the surface of the eye overnight, but unless your eye care provider discusses this with you specifically, plan to remove your lenses each night.
For most patients with scleral lenses, wearing the lenses up to during all waking hours a day is fine. You might find that you need to remove, clean, and re-apply your lenses at some point during the day to maintain the highest level of comfort and vision correction.
What complications are associated with scleral lenses?
When the patient follows proper wear and maintenance instructions, scleral lenses are very safe, and the risk of complications is extremely low. As with any contact lens, there is always the risk of eye irritation or infection. However, you can keep these risks to a minimum by cleaning your lenses properly and using the products recommended by your eye care practitioner to clean and store your lenses (never use tap water). Always handle your lenses with clean hands and avoiding falling asleep with lenses in your eyes.
What makes scleral lenses more comfortable than traditional corneal lenses?
Most patients find scleral lenses very comfortable to wear daily. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, scleral lenses do not make contact with the cornea. Instead, these lenses are designed to leave space between the back of the lens and the cornea, while the outer edges of the lens rest on the sclera. The space between the cornea and the lens is filled with fresh saline solution every time the wearer applies the lenses, resulting in an ongoing source of lubrication and comfort for the eye. They are custom designed to fit the unique shape of the eye and for this reason they provide superior comfort, stability and vision.
Scleral lenses also do not irritate damaged corneas. Patients with conditions such as keratoconus and other ocular diseases or injuries may have severely damaged corneal surfaces. Traditional contact lenses rest directly on this damaged area, moving on the surface of the eye every time the wearer blinks their eyes. This doesn’t occur with scleral lenses, which gently land on the white part of the eye and remain stable even when the person blinks or moves their eyes around.
If you think you might be a good candidate for scleral lenses or would like more information, please contact us for a consultation.