Scleral lenses are a specially designed type of contact lens used to correct vision and/or restore the ocular surface, often when other treatments are not effective. Patients who cannot obtain good vision or comfort with glasses or conventional contact lenses can benefit from using scleral lenses. Though scleral lenses began as a specialty treatment, they have become an increasingly popular choice in recent years even for people who have normal corneas.
Each scleral contact lens is custom-made for the patient. The lenses need to be fitted to vault over the cornea to maintain a constant reservoir of fluid between the lens and cornea. This design ensures the eye remains hydrated during the entire time the lens is worn. In addition, the fluid layer helps compensate for any irregularities in the shape of the cornea, which improves vision.
Scleral lenses are a first-line treatment for the corneal condition known as Keratoconus. Keratoconus is an eye disease that affects the structure of the cornea, resulting in blurry and distorted vison. Correction with glasses is very difficult in these individuals and scleral contact lenses offer superior vision as opposed to other lines of treatment.
Over the years the design of scleral lenses has evolved which has expanded their scope of use.
Here are a few of the conditions that can be treated using scleral lenses:
- Dry Eye Syndrome
- Chemical and burn injuries
- Keratoconus and ectasia
- Corneal degenerations and dystrophies
- Eyelid abnormalities
- Radial Keratotomy (RK)
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
- Graft vs Host Disease
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Corneal ectasia and other complications from LASIK
- Post-corneal transplant
The Design of Scleral Contact Lenses
In comparison with other contact lenses, scleral lenses have a larger diameter. The lenses sit on the white part of the eye (the sclera) and vault over the cornea. The larger design delivers the desired vision benefits without requiring the lens to sit on the cornea itself. Lenses that sit on the cornea are typically less comfortable than scleral lenses and are problematic for patients with corneal irritation or irregularly-shaped corneas.
Scleral contact lenses as they are designed today are considered the best option on the market for health benefits and increased comfort. These lenses eliminate blurred and distorted vision, promote healing of the ocular surface, and protect the cornea from the surrounding environment and eyelids.