While they’re not for everyone, scleral lenses can be an excellent way to help your eyes retain moisture.
Unlike standard contact lenses, scleral contact lenses fit over the sclera, sometimes known as the white of your eye. These contact lenses can be more durable and provide clearer vision.
Because scleral lens cover and protect the entire eye, they may also be helpful for people with dry eye.
Sclera lenses are custom-made and can be more expensive than standard contact lenses. However, a single pair is made to last for as long as 3 years and can provide many benefits.
Scleral lenses can be a good solution for dry eye.
Optometrists will often recommend scleral lenses when treatments such as artificial tears and steroidal eye drops aren’t effective. Scleral lenses cover the entire surface of your eye, protecting your eye from irritants such as wind, debris, and smoke. They can also help your eyes retain moisture.
Before placing scleral lenses in your eyes, you’ll insert them into a bowl of saline solution. The solution will then stay on the contact and moisturize your eyes all day, helping provide extra relief for dry eye symptoms.
Scleral lenses can often improve symptoms of dry eye and provide clearer vision. However, they’re not the right choice for everyone with dry eye, so it’s important to talk with your optometrist about their potential risks and benefits for your eyes.
How long does a scleral lens last?
Scleral lenses are made to be worn daily. Depending on how you care for your lenses, they can last up to 3 years.
Scleral contact lenses have been used for decades and are considered safe.
They are not associated with long-term complications. Although there are possible side effects, most are related to poor fit or mishandling. Side effects are similar to those that can occur with standard contact lenses.
Possible side effects of scleral lenses include:
- corneal swelling
- corneal infections
- extra blood vessels growing in the cornea
- eye irritation
- eye pain
- conjunctival prolapse
The lenses themselves can also have issues, such as lens fogging or lens bubbling. You might need to clean the lenses thoroughly or replace them if this happens.
Who cannot wear scleral lenses?
Scleral lenses aren’t recommended for everyone. They can’t help correct every vision concern.
Typically, people with corneal transplants aren’t good candidates for scleral lenses. This is because scleral lenses cover the entire cornea, and people with corneal transplants need oxygen in their cornea to prevent swelling.
In addition, some eye conditions can prevent people from holding their eyelids open wide enough to insert a scleral lens, or it can make their eyes too sensitive to hold onto the lens.
Your optometrist may be able to tell if you’re not a good candidate for scleral lenses by reviewing your eye health history. A trial fitting appointment may also help you decide that scleral lenses aren’t the right option.
Scleral lenses are custom fitted and individually made. They can run between $400 and $500.
While this cost may look high, it’s typically paid all at once, and scleral lenses are meant to last up to 3 years. Standard contact lenses or glasses may seem less expensive, but they can add up in the long run.
For instance, daily contact lenses can cost around $60 each month, or $720 each year. This averages out to more than $2,000 for 3 years.
If you have vision insurance, it may help you pay for some — but likely not all — of the cost of scleral lenses. Be sure to check your insurance plan for specifics. You can typically find this information listed under “specialty contacts,” either as a percentage or as a set amount paid.
In some cases, medical insurance will pay part of the cost, but only if you have severe dry eye. For example, Medicare may cover a portion of your scleral lens cost, but you’ll need to show that your dry eye is a result of lacrimal gland failure.
Scleral lenses need to be designed by a specialist. The first step in getting scleral lenses is to make an appointment with an eye doctor who can determine your vision correction needs and the right lens fit for you.
Your eye doctor will have you try on different lenses so that you can test their comfort and learn if they’ll work for you. From there, they’ll test the fit of the lenses and your vision. If you find a good fit and can see clearly, your doctor will order you a pair of specialty lenses.
If you don’t already have an eye doctor, check out Healthline’s FindCare Tool to discover doctors in your area.
Scleral contacts are contact lenses that fit over your entire eye. They can be a great option for people with dry eye because they provide more protection and more moisture than standard lenses. Scleral lenses block out dirt, smoke, and other debris. They also hold saline solution close to your eye.
For many people with dry eye, these lenses can help sharpen vision and relieve symptoms of dry eye.
Although they’re not the right solution for everyone, including people with corneal transplants, scleral lenses are a safe and comfortable treatment option for many people. Talk with your doctor if you think they may be helpful.