Innovative wide-diameter "scleral" contact lenses can be used to treat extreme cases of dry eyes.
Conventional rigid contact lenses are roughly 9 millimeters in diameter and lie on the cornea - the colored part - of the eye. But the special dome-shaped "scleral" contact lens is 15 to 22 millimeters and rests on the sclera - the white part of the eye. A pool of saline solution lies underneath the large contact, continuously bathing the dry eye.
AdvertisementWhile these kinds of contacts have been available for decades, major technological improvements have helped them to make a resurgence to treat dry eyes. The newer models - which are made of hard plastic - are gas permissible, allowing oxygen to fill the lens to provide oxygen to the eye surface.
"It's amazing to see the effect scleral lenses can make," Fox News quoted Dr Peter Russo, director of the contact lens service of Loyola University Health System, as saying.
"When patients first come into the office, they have extremely irritated eyes, and have to use eye drops over 30 to 60 minutes... But once we put in the sclera lenses, they feel instant relief," he said.
Although Dr Russo touts the benefits of scleral lenses, he also acknowledged it generally takes a while longer for patients to figure out how to put them in the eye.
The lenses are more expensive than regular contacts, but Dr Russo said he is working to get them covered by insurance companies because they help treat a medical condition and are not purely cosmetic.