Scleral Lenses, an Old Dog with New Tricks

Eye care has had a fairly amazing evolution over the last few decades, especially with regard to treating patients with difficult vision issues. Glasses and contacts have gotten thinner, more comfortable and easier to wear. Technological advances have saved the vision of many patients who may otherwise have had complete sight loss. Scleral lenses are a tool that has been around for ages, and are now being used in interesting new ways.

History of Scleral Lenses

Scleral Contacts have been around since the 1800’s and were first made of glass. They were a very large lens used to help patients with keratoconus, or a dome-shaped cornea. This issue causes sight loss, light sensitivity, and streaks in the visual field, and is unfortunately still a condition present today. These lenses were hard to manufacture, and even when they had begun to be formed out of plastics, the challenge was still significant. Today they are much more easily made and use gas-permeable material. This material allows oxygen flow to the eye and a fluid reservoir to be maintained, keeping the eye moist and comfortable.

Vision Issues Aided by Scleral Lenses

The corneal problem of keratoconus continues to be improved by the use of Scleral lenses today, as are most conditions involving an irregularly shaped cornea, like severe astigmatism. Scleral contacts help correct the vision problems caused by these irregularities, but patients may also require glasses for full sight. Scleral contacts are still significantly larger than most typical contact lenses, and extend into the whites of the eye (the Sclera) for full corneal coverage. Scleral lenses are sometimes used for patients with very dry eyes, since they retain moisture more effectively than regular soft lenses do.

Non-Typical Uses of Scleral Lenses

At one time while looking through a Halloween catalog, you may have seen a model wearing Scleral lenses. For this purpose, they are used as a costume accessory to give the eye a different appearance than normal, such as a cats-eye effect or a large blacked-out area of the eye. Important information to note is that these are not normal Scleral lenses and do not provide vision correction, only a temporary cosmetic change to the eye’s appearance.

Scleral lenses have had an interesting evolution and continue to be very useful where typical contacts cannot help. Ask your eye doctor for more information if you’ve had trouble with traditional lenses in the past.

 

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