The options for contact lenses are seemingly endless. While soft contact lenses are the most common choice among patients and eye care professionals alike, there are many other choices of contact lenses that can provide comfortable, clear vision. Specialty contact lenses, like traditional gas permeable lenses and newer scleral or hybrid lenses, are commonly used to provide visual correction for those who struggle in soft contact lenses. From improving symptoms of Dry Eye Disease to providing clear vision to those with high amounts of astigmatism, specialty contact lenses are a useful tool in vision correction. They may have their place in patients who struggle with traditional soft lenses, but these specialty lenses can be a universal option for all eyes, not just the difficult-to-correct ones. Continue reading to learn more about some of the specialty contact lenses that may be an option for you.
Traditional Gas Permeable Lenses
The first type of contact lenses to gain widespread popularity were small rigid lenses, known as gas permeable or GP lenses. GP lenses are still around today, but many improvements have been made over the years to make these lenses healthier and more comfortable. They are made of a flexible biocompatible plastic that efficiently transmits oxygen to the corneal surface; in fact, many gas permeable lenses are better at transmitting oxygen than soft contact lenses. GP lenses are smaller than soft contact lenses and rest directly on the tear film in the middle of the cornea. They are often utilized in the correction of a corneal condition known as keratoconus, where irregular astigmatism is formed and soft contact lenses and glasses are less effective. Gas permeable lenses can come in many designs, allowing them to correct for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and high amounts of astigmatism. They even have multifocal designs to correct for presbyopia. The same pair of GP lenses can be worn for up to a year at a time, as long as they are removed each night, and properly cleaned and cared for.
Scleral Contact Lenses
Scleral lenses have recently gained a lot of attention in the world of contact lenses. These specialty lenses are wide-diameter rigid lenses that arch over the corneal surface and rest softly on the sclera, or the white part of the eye. Before they are placed over the cornea, the well of the lenses is filled with a liquid solution that keeps the front of the eye lubricated and nourished for the entire time the lenses are worn. Similar to GP lenses, scleral lenses can come in many designs to provide a wide variety of visual correction, and are also a useful tool for the management of progressive corneal conditions. They are also beneficial in the treatment and management of Dry Eye Disease, since the liquid reservoir that fills the lenses provides constant hydration of the corneal surface.
Specialty Contact Lenses: Hybrid Lenses
Hybrid lenses combine qualities of rigid lenses and soft contact lenses. The center of a hybrid lens is made of a rigid material, like a GP lens or the center of a scleral lens. This rigid portion is surrounded by a soft “skirt,” which is the same material as soft contacts. These lenses are meant to provide the superior optics of GP and scleral lenses, with the comfort and ease of soft lenses.
If you are interested in trying a specialty contact lens, ask your optometrist about your options. These lenses may require slightly more time to fit and finalize, but they are excellent corrective options for a wide range of patients.