Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease that causes the cornea to thin and bulge into a cone-like shape. This results in distorted and blurred vision, making it difficult to carry out daily activities such as reading, driving, and watching TV. Although there are several treatment options available for keratoconus, scleral lenses have emerged as one of the most effective solutions for managing this condition. In this article, we will explore how scleral lenses can help those with keratoconus.
What are Scleral Lenses?
Scleral lenses are large, gas-permeable contact lenses that rest on the sclera or the white part of the eye. These lenses are designed to vault over the cornea and create a tear-filled chamber between the lens and the eye surface. By doing so, they provide a smooth optical surface that compensates for the distorted and irregular cornea of those with keratoconus.
Scleral lenses are usually custom-made to fit the unique shape and size of each patient’s eye. The fitting process involves taking detailed measurements of the eye, including the corneal curvature, scleral contour, and tear film. The lens may take a few weeks to manufacture, and patients are required to visit their eye doctor for follow-up visits to ensure that the lens is fitting correctly.
How do Scleral Lenses Help those with Keratoconus?
Scleral lenses can help those with keratoconus in several ways:
- Improve Visual Acuity
By creating a smooth and regular surface over the cornea, scleral lenses can improve visual acuity in those with keratoconus. The lenses correct the refractive error caused by the abnormal corneal shape, thereby reducing the distortion and blurriness in the vision. In some cases, scleral lenses can even provide better vision than glasses or other contact lenses.
- Reduce Sensitivity to Light
Many individuals with keratoconus also experience sensitivity to light, which can make it difficult to go outside or work on a computer. Scleral lenses can help reduce this sensitivity by shielding the eye from bright light and reducing glare. The tear-film layer between the lens and the eye also helps to protect the cornea from exposure to air and light, which can further reduce sensitivity.
- Increase Comfort
Individuals with keratoconus often experience discomfort or pain when wearing traditional contact lenses. This is because the lenses sit directly on the cornea, which is already sensitive and irritated in those with keratoconus. Scleral lenses, on the other hand, rest on the sclera, which is less sensitive and does not cause as much discomfort. The tear-filled chamber created by the lens also helps to lubricate the eye and reduce dryness and irritation.
- Manage Other Eye Conditions
Scleral lenses can also be useful in managing other eye conditions that often coexist with keratoconus, such as dry eye syndrome, corneal scarring, and irregular astigmatism. The large size of the lens allows for a more stable fit that can help keep the eye moist and protect it from further damage. Scleral lenses are also useful in post-surgical cases where the cornea has been damaged due to eye trauma or disease.
- Long-Term Management
Scleral lenses offer a long-term solution for managing keratoconus. Unlike other treatments such as corneal cross-linking or corneal transplant, which only address the underlying cause of keratoconus, scleral lenses provide immediate relief from the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those with this condition. The lenses can also be adjusted over time as the cornea continues to change, ensuring that the patient always has the best possible vision.
Scleral lenses are an effective solution for managing the symptoms of keratoconus. These lenses improve visual acuity, reduce sensitivity to light, increase comfort, manage other eye conditions, and offer long-term relief from the symptoms of keratoconus. If you are struggling with keratoconus, talk to your eye doctor about whether scleral lenses could be a good solution for your vision needs.