Scleral contact lenses can be used to manage moderate to severe dry eyes. They have been used for many years to treat poor vision caused by an irregular front surface of the eye. The way they work seem to offer attractive possibilities for dry eye suffers.
Unlike most contact lenses the scleral lens rests on the white of the eye and completely vaults the cornea. In fact, the cornea is completely bathed in fluid. It is like walking around with an eye bath covering the cornea. There is no drying, no scratching, no dust, no wind – nothing can touch the cornea. On top of that, they are optical devices so they can correct your vision as well. Not just correcting optically in the way that glasses would but helping with the filmy vision that comes from and unstable tear film and a scratched up eye surface.
They seem intimidating because they are big and made of a rigid plastic. The main issue is getting them in and out. Some with small eyes will struggle but people with practice can manage to do it.In fact, the lenses are surprisingly comfortable. Here is why; the sensitive part of the eye is the cornea – it’s 50 times more sensitive than a finger tip! The white of the eye is a lot less sensitive and that is where the lens is resting.
They can be worn for up to 12 hrs but sometimes the lenses need to be removed to place a fresh pool of liquid in the bowl of the lens. You will probably still need to use some eye drops as the surface of the lens needs to stay wet and slippery for your eyelids to blink across it comfortably. Depending on how well you look after the lenses you should be able to get 1-3 years wear out of a pair.
They are not a first line of treatment as we first treat the dry eye as usual with a combination of treatment options. Some people have come in to see us having heard of these lenses as a way of relieving the discomfort of dry eye but, after having their dry eyes assessed and treated, their eyes are comfortable and there is no need for them to use this option.