The cornea is a critical part of the human eye, serving as its outermost layer. This transparent, dome-shaped surface envelops the eye’s front. Although it appears clear and insubstantial, it is actually composed of a highly organized collection of cells and proteins. Unique among body tissues, the cornea doesn’t rely on blood vessels for nourishment or defense against infection.
Nourishment for the cornea comes from tears and the aqueous humor, which fills the chamber behind the cornea. The cornea’s transparency is essential for correctly refracting light, and even the smallest blood vessels could disrupt this process. All corneal layers must remain free from any opaqueness or cloudy areas to ensure optimal vision.
Around 5 million Americans experience quality vision loss due to ocular trauma and various corneal conditions. Some of these conditions that result in vision loss and discomfort include keratoconus, pellucid marginal degeneration, post-refractive surgeries such as LASIK-induced ectasia, corneal ulcerations, severe dry eye, different corneal dystrophies, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, shingles, ocular herpes, and corneal transplant surgery.
Many of these conditions cause such severe corneal distortion that neither eyeglasses nor conventional soft or hard contact lenses can restore quality vision and comfort. Moreover, numerous patients have such dry and/or traumatized corneas that exposure to light and other irritants makes it nearly impossible for them to open their eyes.
Fortunately, there is ongoing work in North America, Europe, and Australia by various contact lens manufacturers to develop specialty lenses and materials to address many of the conditions mentioned above. Additionally, stem cell research is being conducted to promote healing and restore healthy ocular tissue.
Scleral lenses are large gas permeable lenses that vault over the cornea without touching it. They rest on the sclera, which is the white portion of the eye, making them incredibly comfortable for the wearer. A special fluid fills the space between the back portion of the lens and the front of the cornea, creating a liquid environment that promotes corneal healing. As such, scleral lenses are deemed medically necessary for treating the aforementioned conditions.
In many cases where severe corneal distortion is present, conventional corrective lenses or eyeglasses may not suffice. Scleral lenses can provide a solution in these instances. Custom-fit for each individual, they offer improved visual acuity, while also addressing any discomfort issues. In cases where the corneas are so dry and/or traumatized that the patient struggles to open their eyes, scleral lenses can provide the necessary relief, facilitating normal eye function.
We continuously work towards introducing specialty lenses to address the above-mentioned conditions, with several contact lens manufacturers also joining in this crucial mission. Additionally, promising work utilizing stem cells is underway, aiming to promote healing and restore healthy ocular tissue. As a leader in scleral lens practice, we remain dedicated to assisting patients with debilitating ocular conditions to regain quality vision in a non-invasive manner. Our mission is to offer a new lease of life for individuals with corneal diseases, providing hope for improved vision and eye comfort.
Yes, corneal diseases can affect one or both eyes. The extent and severity of the disease can vary between eyes, and the impact on vision can also differ.