Did you know that contact lenses are not just used for vision correction? There are many special applications of contact lenses – some of them are quite surprising!
I recently saw a patient with a badly scarred and blind eye. He was uncomfortable with the way the eye looks especially in photos so was wondering whether there was anything he could do to improve the cosmesis! We’ve all seen the wacky cosmetic coloured contact lenses (cat’s eyes anyone?) but what if you just want a ‘normal’ looking eye? Well, prosthetic contact lenses are the answer. I decided to fit my patient with a hand painted soft prosthetic contact lens with a black pupil – it is painted as an exact match to his uninjured eye! The result is quite impressive! Check out the before and after photos (consent obtained to share images)
Contact lenses are also commonly used as bandages or barriers for people who suffer from recurrent corneal problems or if their eyelashes grow in the wrong direction. The contact lens protects the surface of the eye and prevents scratches, abrasions and even opportunistic infections.
 Contact lenses can also act as a tool for rehabilitating the ocular surface in ocular surface disease, especially severe dry eye. Dry eye is a very common problem among a wide demographic of the population. Mild to moderate dry eye is usually treated successfully with lubricating eye drops, warm compresses/lid massage and changes in diet. However, severe dry eye is associated with significant ocular health problems and can be very debilitating as symptoms are quite significant. In cases of severe dry eye often associated with autoimmune conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome and Graves’ disease; bandage contact lenses can help retain the tear film on the eye, leading to increased comfort for the patient.
3. Drug delivery
Eye drops are the most common method of therapeutic drug delivery to the eye, accounting for 90% of all ocular medications. However, eye drops are actually significantly inefficient as they have a short retention period on the eye limiting just how much drug can be absorbed by the eye. As the medication drains from the eye quickly through the tear ducts and into the nose, unwanted drug can be then be absorbed systemically. This then increases the likelihood of systemic side effects. Medication impregnated on a contact lenses would be slowly released into the eye which suggests a better rate of absorption and therefore drug effectiveness. This technology could be applied to glaucoma medication, as well as anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drugs.
Contact lenses can be used in many ‘non-traditional’ ways for cosmetic, therapeutic and even drug administering reasons, not just for vision correction.