Anyone who is familiar with dry eyes may find the above statement quite a surprise, or maybe even an error, especially since most types of contact lenses have a tendency to make dry eye symptoms worse. However, as odd as it sounds, there is actually a type of specialty contact lens that successfully manages and treats dry eyes. This type of contact lens is called a “scleral contact lens.”
Scleral contact lenses have been around for over 100 years. In fact, scleral contact lenses were the very first type of contact lenses ever made. However, in their early years, they were unsafe, ineffective, and impractical. For this reason, they were quickly made obsolete in the eye care world. Gratefully, scleral contact lens manufacturing, lens materials, and technology dramatically improved, scleral contact lenses have begun to make a powerful comeback, especially for specific types of eye conditions such as keratoconus, corneal transplant patients, and yes, even severe dry eyes.
So, How Does a Scleral Contact Lens Help With Dryness?
The first thing to understand is that, unlike soft contact lenses, scleral contact lenses are made of a rigid material. This means that the shape of the lens does not change when it is on the eye. Although this seems unusual, this is actually a unique advantage! You see, when a scleral contact lens is worn, the contact does not even touch the highly sensitive cornea. Instead, it rests on the much more comfortable and less sensitive sclera. Not only this, but the lens creates a seal in which it traps a layer of liquid between the cornea and the scleral lens, which provides constant lubrication to the cornea throughout the entire time the contact lens is in the eye.
Are Scleral Contact Lenses Comfortable?
Yes. In fact, because they do not make contact with the cornea at all, they are often more comfortable than soft lenses.
Other notes about scleral contact lenses:
- In general, they provide superior vision compared to soft lenses.
- The lenses are NOT disposable. One set of contacts can last between 1-3 years.
- Scleral contact lenses need a different cleaning solution than you would use for a soft contact lens.
- Each scleral lens is custom-made for each patient.
- Scleral lenses require special plungers to insert and remove the lenses.