Living with keratoconus is challenging. That’s not to say the condition ever stopped me doing the things I wanted to do, but I’ve always faced a trade-off between good vision and eye comfort. That was until I wore a pair of scleral contact lenses.
Jason has been a patient at The Eye Practice for over 20 years. His keratoconus hasn’t stopped him seeing the World.
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with keratoconus, or you’ve lived with the condition for years, you’ll know it is frustrating. Glasses are super comfortable and improve your vision, but only somewhat. On the other hand, hard contact lenses offer better clarity, but they can be uncomfortable.
I have lived with keratoconus for over 30 years. For much of that time I wore hard RGP contact lenses. These gave me 20/20 vision and I was grateful for that. However, over time they became uncomfortable.
I tried switching between contact lenses and glasses, but that didn’t work. My hard lenses were reshaping my cornea after each wear, making my glasses useless until my cornea ‘bounced back’. Sadly, that could take many hours.
Scleral lenses – an alternative to uncomfortable keratoconus contacts
I’d reached a fork in the keratoconus road. Thankfully, Dr. Jim Kokkinakis was there with expert guidance. He suggested scleral contact lenses to treat my keratoconus.
Scleral contact lenses are different. They are bigger, much bigger than hard lenses. Counterintuitively, it is that larger size that makes them more comfortable.
Unlike small hard contact lenses that sit on the sensitive cornea, large scleral lenses rest on the white part of the eye. They arch up and over the cornea without touching it.
Life changing comfort
From the moment I first inserted my new scleral lenses I knew my life was about to change. Of course they felt different, in the same way an Ugg boot feels different to a shoe. However, these lenses also felt instantly comfortable.
Remarkably, that sense of comfort didn’t wear off over time. With Jim Kokkinakis’ guidance I as able to increase my wear-time up to 12 hours. Indeed, I feel like I could wear my scleral contact lenses even longer.
Life changing freedom
One of the most unexpected bonuses of wearing scleral contact lenses has been the ability to switch to glasses, instantly.
I love to wear glasses. They are a fashion accessory. Now I can remove my scleral lenses and see perfectly with my glasses. The reason is because the scleral lenses don’t change the shape of my cornea.
Now I have the freedom to choose between contact lenses and glasses. Not to mention the ability to switch between the two at any time. It is a freedom that has been life changing for me.
The scleral routine
Wearing scleral contact lenses requires a different lens routine. It is more fiddly than what I was used to, but that’s one of the trade-offs we keratoconics learn to live with.
The lenses themselves are inserted and removed using a special rubber tool. It sounds daunting and takes some practice. Indeed, it took me a few weeks before I mastered the art of breaking the air-tight seal around the lenses!
Also, they should be removed and rinsed with saline half way through the day. Doing so gets rid of oily lipids that can cloud the lenses. It sounds like a nuisance, but the bonus is that once they have been rinsed and reinserted, it’s like having ‘fresh eyes’!
Are scleral lenses worth it?
Scleral contact lenses are expensive. In fact that are about twice the cost of typical RGP contact lenses. Are they worth it? In my experience the answer is “yes”.
Scleral lenses have restored a visual freedom I thought I’d lost. They have given me comfort and they have given me the ability to switch to glasses once more.
Sure scleral contact lenses cost more, but it was a relatively small price to pay for something that has had such a positive impact on my life.