No two people’s eyes are the same meaning that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to contact lenses. In fact, conventional, off-the-shelf contact lenses might not be appropriate for some patients at all. Issues with the shape of your eye or your cornea or conditions such as keratoconus or astigmatism can make it difficult or impossible for patients to comfortably wear standard contacts. In these instances, specialty contact lenses offer an alternative that enables patients who would otherwise require glasses to be able to enjoy all of the freedoms of contact lens use.
Here’s what you need to know about the different types of specialty contact lenses.
Scleral lenses are a popular type of specialty lens due to their versatility, which makes them suitable for patients with a number of eye conditions that prevent the wearing from using conventional contacts. Larger in diameter than regular contact lenses, and available in different sizes depending on your needs, scleral lenses promise sharper vision, greater durability, easier handling, and a lower risk of complications. They get their name from the fact that they rest on the white part of the eye, rather than the edge of the cornea. They are also designed to vault over the surface of the cornea with a clear gap between the back of the lens and the surface of the eye. This element of the design enables tear film to be trapped there, keeping the eyes hydrated and comfortable.
Scleral lenses are particularly beneficial for patients who have:
Dry eyes. Dry eyes can make it difficult for patients to wear conventional contact lenses. The fluid reservoir of scleral lenses traps tear film to make them comfortable and reduce the symptoms of dry eyes.
Irregular corneas. Irregular corneal shapes, such as seen in patients with keratoconus, can also mean that regular contacts don’t fit properly and aren’t stable. The design of scleral lenses creates space to accommodate abnormal corneas while remaining secure on the surface of the eye.
Otherwise hard-to-fit eyes. If other contact lenses are generally just a poor fit, scleral lenses can offer an effective alternative.
Rigid, gas permeable lenses, also known as RGP lenses, are made from a material that enables oxygen to pass through them and reach the surface of the eye. As their name also suggests, they are more rigid than conventional soft contact lenses and this helps them to retain their shape and remain stable on the eye. They are also smaller than soft lenses, covering up less of the cornea, and last longer than soft lenses.
RGP lenses are particularly good for people with:
Dry eyes. Each blink when wearing RGP lenses causes oxygen-rich tears onto the surface of the eyes, keeping them moist and comfortable.
Astigmatism. Astigmatism occurs when your eye is shaped more like a football than a soccer ball, causing light to be focused at more than one place in the eye and resulting in blurred vision and some other symptoms. RGP lenses retain their spherical shape on the eye, correcting patient vision without the need for surgery.
Hybrid lenses combine the benefits of both RGP lenses and standard, soft contact lenses, giving patients the benefits of both. The center of a hybrid lens is gas permeable, making it possible for oxygen to reach the surface of the eyes. It is also rigid, meaning that it is stable and provides exceptional visual clarity. The outer edge of a hybrid lens is a soft skirt that keeps the lens feeling comfortable and able to be worn for long periods of time.
Hybrid lenses are suitable for patients with a wide range of eye conditions, including dry eye and astigmatism. They can also be used to treat keratoconus – the gradual thinning and bulging of the cornea – and can be used to slow its progression and control the condition.
As you might expect from the name, soft lenses are made from a pliable material that conforms to the shape of the eye. Specialty soft contact lenses enable oxygen to pass through to the cornea which keeps your eyes hydrated. Meanwhile, their design makes them extremely easy and comfortable to wear, especially for long periods. They might not necessarily provide the most stable vision, but they are a good choice for patients whose only issue is dry eyes.
If you are considering contact lenses and you would like more information about specialty contacts and how they could benefit you, please don’t hesitate to speak to our expert team in Atlanta, GA, or Kennesaw, GA.