Special contact lenses give patient a new look on life

One School of Optometry professor helped restore a patient’s vision and day-to-day life with sophisticated contact lenses.

special contacts streamKimmett's debilitating vision has been restored thanks to the process of getting scleral contact lenses. For people with perfect vision or those who wear prescription glasses or contacts for everyday corrective use, it can be easy to overlook how essential sight is to a person’s daily life. Even a simple task like opening your eyes and walking forward can be taken for granted.

As Jennifer Kimmett experienced, blurred and distorted vision limited her ability to live a normal life — including the ability to go about her day with her eyes open. 

At age 35, Kimmett underwent cataract surgery — the process of removing the clouded lens of the eye and replacing it with an artificial lens — due to iritis complications caused by her lupus diagnosis. When an uncorrectable astigmatism, an irregularly shaped curvature of the lens, developed in her right eye, her vision became debilitating.

“I was so nauseated and anxious, and would open my eyes just to see in that moment,” Kimmett said. “I spent most of my days with my eyes closed because keeping them open made me feel like I was in a fun house.”

After a year of living this way, Kimmett was “willing to do and pay anything to have my vision and life back.”

special contacts blueEyePrint Pro scleral contact lenses, offered exclusively at UAB Eye Care in Alabama, take exact impressions of a person's eye so the contact lens is an identical match. Having been referred to multiple optometrists, Kimmett thought she was out of options before being referred to specialists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry for scleral contact lenses, specific lenses that cover the entire cornea and the “white” of a person’s eye.

“There are a lot of advantages to scleral lenses compared to the conventional disposable contact lenses that are on the market, including better comfort, breathability and vision due to their rigid optical surface and a shape designed specifically for a patient’s eye,” said John Laurent, O.D., Ph.D., associate professor in UAB’s School of Optometry and Kimmett’s optometrist. “We have found that, for a lot of patients who have an irregular corneal shape, scar tissue or other significant vision problems — and have often exhausted other options — scleral lenses can be the solution in fixing their vision.”

Kimmett benefitted from EyePrint PRO, the most advanced scleral lens. In the state of Alabama, it is only available at UAB Eye Care, the School of Optometry’s clinical arm.

Further benefits of scleral lenses include their ability to last several years, their gas-permeable quality which allows oxygen and carbon dioxide in the eye, the ability to combat dry eye by maintaining a tear layer over the cornea, and perhaps most importantly, the potential to correct vision before resorting to a corneal transplant.

special contacts laurentLaurent, right, and the UAB Eye Care team are able to help patients who aren't candidates for conventional glasses or contact lenses by recommending one of a kind scleral contact lenses. Laurent explains that the scleral lenses used in the School of Optometry are 100 percent customizable, which benefits patients who have irregular optical surfaces. Laurent and his colleagues use custom molding technology and a special imaging device that helps map exact curves and surface irregularities, resulting in a contact lens with an optimal fit, decreased fogging, breathability and the ability to restore a patient’s vision.

“In Jennifer’s case, we were able to correct the vision problems she was experiencing because her scleral lenses are made specifically for her eyes,” Laurent said. “We work very hard to give each patient a really superior contact lens fit, knowing that these lenses can truly make a significant difference in their life.”

Now, nearly two years after Kimmett started experiencing her disabling vision problems, she is grateful that a series of referrals led her to UAB and hopes that others who may be experiencing similar vision issues know that there are options available. Not only did the scleral lenses correct Kimmett’s distorted vision, but the lenses also solved her painful severe dry eye condition caused by lupus. 

“The scleral lenses have absolutely changed my life and the way my world works,” Kimmett said. “My hope is that others can experience vision without pain like I have through scleral lenses – they have given me back my life.”