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What Are Scleral Lenses?

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A pair of scleral contact lenses against a white background.

If you wear contact lenses, you probably know there are many different types. These days, even conditions that would normally make wearing contacts difficult can have specialty-made solutions. Scleral lenses are just this kind of solution.

Scleral lenses are larger than traditional contact lenses, allowing them to sit on the white part of the eye. Their large size makes them ideal for people with irregular corneas or dry eye symptoms, unlike traditional contact lenses that may move around and cause discomfort, scleral lenses don’t touch the cornea and can stay centered on the eye throughout the day.

What Are the Benefits of Scleral Lenses?

Scleral lenses have a lot in common with traditional contact lenses, just on a larger scale. They’re a type of rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lens, which means they have many of the same advantages regular RGP lenses offer, including:

  • Crisper vision
  • Easier handling
  • More durability
  • Resistant to deposit build-up

Some people find RGP lenses less comfortable initially, but scleral lenses can address that. Many wearers report that scleral lenses could even be more comfortable than soft lenses and more stable than RGP lenses, potentially making them ideal for active contact lens wearers. 

Scleral lenses come in different sizes, depending on your needs. Still, even mini-scleral lenses can cover your cornea, the eye’s clear front dome, with ease. This large diameter allows them to sit on the whites of the eyes, known as the sclera. The lenses then “vault” over the cornea, creating a reservoir between the lens and the eye you fill with saline.

This reservoir creates a smooth and consistent surface on the cornea, allowing light to enter the eye evenly and with less distortion. With sharper vision, you can go about your daily activities with ease and greater confidence in your abilities.

One excellent feature of scleral lenses is that they cover so much of the eye they can form a seal at the edges and defend against debris, dust, and wind, which can cause irritations or infections.

Who Can Wear Scleral Lenses?

For a long time, people with “hard-to-fit” eyes were excluded from contact lens benefits. But those times may be gone with scleral lenses as a viable alternative.

Your optometrist may recommend scleral lenses if you have any of the following:

  • Dry eyes
  • Keratoconus
  • Corneal scarring
  • Post-penetrating keratoplasty
  • Corneal irregularities
  • Ocular surface disorders
  • People with very high prescriptions

Scleral Lenses for Dry Eyes

Dry eye disease is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly, resulting in dryness and discomfort. This condition can be uncomfortable and even painful, making wearing traditional contacts challenging.

Not only can people with dry eye wear scleral lenses, but these lenses could even help alleviate frustrating dry eye symptoms. Scleral lenses sit on the sclera and create a reservoir of tears between the lens and the cornea. When the eye blinks, the excess fluid drains into the lower lid and replenishes fresh tears underneath the lens.

Scleral lenses can also provide a barrier between the eye and environmental irritants that could cause inflammation. 

A close-up of a woman's eyes with noticeable redness possibly caused by dryness.

Scleral Lenses for Keratoconus

Keratoconus is a progressive eye condition that affects the shape of your cornea and distorts your vision. It causes your cornea to become thinner and bulge outwards, leading to blurry vision and sensitivity to light. Although glasses can correct vision, the cornea’s shape affects how contact lenses sit on the eye.

Scleral lenses can dramatically improve vision for keratoconus patients, even in advanced stages of the condition. They’re designed to vault the cornea, meaning they don’t have to worry about the cornea’s shape. The sclera is also generally less sensitive than the cornea and the lenses have little to no movement while you’re blinking, reducing the discomfort shifting lenses can cause.

Scleral Lenses for Astigmatism

Astigmatism is a vision condition that occurs when the cornea is abnormally shaped. Instead of being round, like a basketball, it’s shaped more like a football. This can cause blurriness and distortion in your vision, making it difficult to focus on objects at certain distances. Alternatively, the shape of the lens inside your eye can also cause astigmatism.

Unfortunately, regular contact lenses are designed for perfectly round eyes. They sit on your eye like a cap, and if your eye isn’t round, they can’t do their job. That’s why people with astigmatism often find it harder to wear contact lenses. They might feel uncomfortable, move around too much, or not give you the clear vision you need.

Some people with astigmatism can also have vastly different prescriptions for their vertical vision than their horizontal vision. Since contact lenses tend to rotate on the eye, they have trouble correcting for both axes.

Scleral lenses don’t tend to care about the shape of your cornea and they are more rotationally stable to help address astigmatism.

Discover Scleral Lenses

Scleral lenses can be a great option for those who want to experience improved visual clarity and comfort, particularly if they have certain eye conditions that may make wearing traditional contact lenses difficult—or even impossible.

They require a bit more maintenance than daily disposables, but the comfort they offer people with dry eyes or astigmatism shouldn’t be underestimated. At Pacific EyeCare Optometry, we want to get you back to doing what you love, with clear sight to help you on your way. We consider your lifestyle, eye conditions, and preferences when recommending contact lenses.

Discover a world of contact lenses to transform your life. Book your contact lens fitting today!

Written by Total Vision

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