by Dr. Brett Bennett
Several people in the world are not able to see correctly with the use of prescription glasses and soft contact lenses. This population of people can have correctable vision with the use of specialty fit contact lenses. These people are often frustrated because their family and loved ones can see things much better than they can. Not seeing well over a period of one’s life does negatively impact their quality of life to the point that they start looking for options available, even including cornea surgeries. A study by Smiddy et al. (1998) reported that 69% of patients who were referred for cornea surgeries could be successfully fitted with specialty fit contact lenses improving their quality of life without surgery. Most, even after surgery, still get fitted in specialty fit contact lenses because their quality of vision is still reduced.
I have had several patients that, when first meeting them, are at the point of giving up on ever being able to see even their loved ones or driving or performing at their job adequately. When giving these patients their specialty fit lenses, it usually always brings the patient tears of joy because their vision has been improved from the point of not being able to adequately drive to being able to see 20/20.
There are 2 different types of specialty fit contact lenses in the US today: Hybrid lenses and hard lenses. The hybrid lenses are special because they have a small hard lens incased in a soft contact lens. This lens allows the wearer to have crisp vision with the comfort of a soft lens. I have had great success with patients enjoying the hybrid lens after corneal surgery. The other type of specialty lenses fall into the hard lens category about which I will go into detail.
The two types of hard lenses present in US today are orthokeratology and scleral lenses. The orthokeratology are small rigid gas perm lenses which fit tightly on the cornea. They are intended for nearsighted patients under the age of 40 that have low amounts of astigmatism. The orthokeratology lens reshapes the cornea overnight and allows the wearer to be able to take off the lens upon awakening and have great vision throughout the day. Orthokeratology is also a valuable tool in the management of myopia control. The last specialty lens is the scleral lens. The scleral lens is also a rigid gas perm lens that completely vaults the cornea, giving you comfort as well as the sharp vision of a hard lens.
There are many other types of specialty lenses such as: lenses that allow color blind people to be able to differentiate between green and red better, lenses that block light from coming into the pupil for those having double vision or light sensitivity, and hand panted iris lenses to add style to your Halloween costume or for cosmetic reasons after damage to ones Iris.