Scleral contact lenses’ advantages and disadvantages
When contact lenses were first introduced, many people were hesitant to use them because of issues with regards to comfort, stability and safety. But over the years, contact lenses have evolved considerably and now, there are many different types available. Because of these advancements, practically anyone these days can find a pair of contacts that are just right for them. One of the special types that have recently become popular is the scleral contact lenses.
How do scleral contact lenses work?
Traditional contact lenses are those that are only slightly bigger than the size of the iris and lie directly against the cornea when worn. Scleral contact lenses, on the other hand, are considerably larger in diameter and rest on the sclera rather than on the cornea.
Before putting on the scleral lenses, they are filled with an isotonic fluid that keeps the eye sufficiently moist. What the scleral contact lenses do is to correct vision problems that are due to corneal irregularities. They come in three types – the corneo-scleral and semi-scleral lenses, the mini scleral lenses, and the full scleral lenses.
Who are scleral contact lenses designed for?
Scleral contact lenses were originally made for people that have conditions that affect the cornea such as keratoconus, corneal ectasia, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, or corneal trauma. Individuals who have undergone post refractive surgery like penetrating keratoplasty or LASIK, and those that have to undergo post-corneal transplant surgery, are also excellent candidates for the use of scleral contact lenses.
Recently, it has been discovered that scleral contact lenses have been highly effective in correcting the vision of people with very high amounts of astigmatism, or irregular types of astigmatism. Because of this, scleral contact lenses are now also being recommended for such persons, even if they do not have any corneal issues.
Are scleral contact lenses safe?
Scleral contact lenses are perfectly safe to use if you care for them properly. For instance, you have to clean them thoroughly and only with the prescribed solution when you take them off at night. Also, these lenses are meant to be used for up to one year. Beyond that, you should order for new ones to ensure your safety.
It is also very important not to wear them for excessively long periods. Ideally, you should not wear these lenses for more than 12 hours straight. But if you have keratoconus, you will probably need to wear them all day. For these situations, you have to use an artificial tear solution for constant lubrication to keep your eyes protected.
Sleeping while wearing your lenses will also make them unsafe. You'd think your eyes are protected when they are closed during sleep but it is during this time that all sorts of debris can collect in your eyes which can lead to infection. The reason is because you are not blinking, which usually flushes out these foreign objects. So to stay safe while using scleral contact lenses, make sure to take them off before you sleep.
The pros and cons of scleral contact lenses
Scleral contact lenses are not just a new trend in contacts, and they are also not for everybody. These specialty lenses do have advantages and disadvantages that you must consider before deciding to wear them.
The pros of scleral contact lenses
Since they are notably bigger than regular lenses, scleral contact lenses are a lot more stable when you wear them. There is a much lower risk of moving across the eyes or falling off even when you blink rather vigorously. One might think that they are quite uncomfortable because of their size, but scleral contact lenses are surprisingly very easy to wear once you get used to them.
Also, it is the wider diameter of these lenses that gives the wearer a wider range of clear vision. At the same time, the bigger size also helps reduce glare and light sensitivity, especially in very bright environments.
The structure of the scleral contact lenses allows the wearer to have a tear reservoir that moistens the eye continuously. This constant moisture does not only add to the comfort but it is also an excellent preventive measure against eye injuries that happen on the cornea, such as abrasions and dry eye disease.
Because of the rigid surface of the scleral contact lenses, they are also great for providing correction to astigmatism. In fact, these specialty contact lenses have been found to be the most stable method for correcting high amounts of astigmatism and are now being used as such, in lieu of regular contact lenses.
Scleral contact lenses are also great for people who have been told that they couldn't wear contacts because they have an irregularly shaped eye. This is not a problem with scleral contacts.
The cons of scleral contact lenses
The most apparent disadvantage of scleral contact lenses is that they can prove tricky to wear and to remove because of their large size. Even if you are used to wearing regular contacts, the huge difference in size can make you a bit uncomfortable in the beginning. Of course, you can get used to them eventually but for some people, the adjustment period can take some time.
There is also the issue of accessibility. Since they are specialty lenses, scleral contacts are not provided by all optometrists. Only those that have undergone special training can provide these lenses to patients. If you need them, it's possible that you might have to switch to a new eye doctor or find a new optical shop that offers them.
Also, scleral contact lenses are quite expensive, usually with a price tag that is 5 times as much as that of a regular pair of contacts. They do last longer than regular contacts so the price might be worth it, but the initial expense will be definitely higher.
The large size of these contacts also makes them more prone to accumulation of debris. Even though you blink regularly during the day, you might still need to clean them periodically to ensure that they are free from dirt and that you will continue seeing clearly.