Submitted by VisionPoint Eye Center
Have you been unable to tolerate contact lenses? Have you tried many different types of contact lenses and still have discomfort or poor vision? Have you been told that your eyes are hard to fit for contact lenses? Don’t despair—there may be a contact lens option for you after all.
You are likely familiar with the various types of contact lenses available—soft, hard, gas permeable, disposable, extended wear—but have you heard of scleral lenses? Scleral lenses are unlike any other contact lens on the market and they can work when others don’t. They can provide sharp, comfortable vision correction, especially for people who have irregularly shaped or damaged corneas.
Scleral contact lenses are large diameter rigid gas permeable lenses that sit on the sclera, which is the white part of the eye, thus the name scleral lens. While you might think that a large size lens would be uncomfortable, the opposite is true. This specially designed lens vaults over the cornea instead of resting on it. The space between the cornea and the scleral contact lens is filled with a saline solution. Because the sclera has fewer nerve endings, it is less sensitive than the cornea. And since these lenses are wide, they tuck under the lid so it is unlikely to shift around. This, combined with the benefit of having no pressure on the cornea, allows for a more comfortable fit.
Correcting vision is only part of what scleral lenses can do. These lenses promote healing of the ocular surface. The vaulted design with an oxygen permeable fluid filled chamber, gives the eyes the two things needed to stay healthy: moisture and oxygen. At the same time, the lens is protecting the sensitive cornea from outside threats or irritants. Because they hold moisture on the eye, these lenses are also beneficial for people with dry eye disease.
So why doesn’t everyone wear scleral lenses? The sclera lenses are custom-made and fitted for each individual eye. There is more time involved in prescribing scleral lenses, the fitting can require longer or multiple appointments, and fitting requires specialized tools and imaging devices. For these reasons, many optometrists don’t offer scleral contact lenses. While anyone can be a candidate for scleral lenses, they are most beneficial for patients with corneal diseases, dystrophies, scars, irregularities, and degeneration.
Howard Cornish of Sherman, IL was recently fitted at VisionPoint with his first pair of scleral lenses. He has experienced many vision issues over the years including glaucoma, cornea disease, and cataracts in both eyes. He had worn a variety of contact lenses since 1966, but after successful cataract surgery that resulted in great vision improvement, he developed dry eyes and switched to glasses. With glasses, his vision could only be corrected to 20/40 with one eye and 20/60 with the other. After his first week with scleral contacts, his acuity had improved to 20/25 and 20/30. “I have gained the benefit of a major correction within my eyes (cataract surgery) and now a significant external correction,” Cornish stated. “The lenses address the dry eyes and provide a comfortable smooth surface that addresses the irregular shape of the cornea,” explains Cornish. “Dr Huettemann and the associates there have restored a level of vision I thought was gone forever,” he added. “What really surprised me was the range of vision I now have when driving. Road signs popped out that I could not read before, and I was also able to see the dashboard and radio clearly,” he commented. “The field of vision is remarkable. Things have really opened up.”
Justin Kneer of Bloomington was diagnosed with keratoconus 10 years ago when he was 17 years old. Keratoconus is another degenerative corneal disease in which the corneas become cone shaped and vision correction is difficult. He tried glasses in the past but they didn’t work well for him. He had headaches and the improvement to his vision was minimal. He had not heard of scleral contact lenses until coming to VisionPoint. “The scleral contacts are a game changer. They are incredibly comfortable and improved my vision to 20/20,” he explained. Even though the lenses were challenging to get in at first, especially since Justin hadn’t worn contacts before, it has become easier with practice. “The improvement in my daily life has been dramatic. I used to have trouble with my night vision while driving, specifically with bright lights. I was concerned for my safety at times,” he explained. “The scleral contacts have made me feel safer, as I can see clearly while I am driving.”
Scleral lenses may be covered by insurance. However, even when they aren’t, they provide such a significant improvement over regular lenses—in both comfort and vision—that patients believe the cost is absolutely worth it. See your eye doctor to find out if scleral lenses are right for you.
Your vision is an important part of your overall health. If you would like more information or to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, contact VisionPoint Eye Center at 309-662-7700 or visit the website at www.visionpointeye.com. They are located at 1107 Airport Rd. in Bloomington. Their ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians will be happy to see you.