Scleral Lenses For Vision Requirements

Scleral Lenses For Vision Requirements

by Brian Chou, OD, FAAO, FSLS

  • October 5, 2020

If you have keratoconus, corneal scarring, or have had previous eye surgery, scleral lenses can help you meet vision requirements for work.  For example, peace officers with the California Department of Corrections and San Diego Police department, must meet minimum vision standards.

Peace Officer Vision Requirements

For a peace officer with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if uncorrected visual acuity is worse than 20/60 in either eye, only soft contact lenses are currently permitted to achieve 20/20 acuity in each eye – NOT eyeglasses or a “hard/semi rigid contact lens”.

The vision requirements for peace officers in the San Diego Police department is similar, stating that:

“If you wear eyeglasses or hard (non-orthokeratology) contact lenses, your uncorrected vision may be no worse than 20/70 both eyes together.  Uncorrected vision worse than 20/20 but not worse than 20/70 must be corrected to 20/20 both eyes together.”

These requirements seem understandable since peace officers may end up in harm’s way where personal and public safety is at risk. Presumably, peace officers must have good enough unaided vision to perform their job, in the event that hard (PMMA) or rigid corneal gas permeable (GP) lenses eject or dislodge.  At the same time, these policies seem to reflect an antiquated understandings of rigid contact lenses, especially with the new scleral contact lenses.

Scleral Lens Stability and Protection

Rigid scleral contact lenses are not prone to dislodging or ejecting.  In fact, they are less prone to dislodging or ejecting the soft disposable contact lenses.  These lenses generally require a suction device for removal.  This makes scleral lenses surprisingly stable while on the eye.

Furthermore, scleral lenses can protect the eye from noxious chemicals like pepper spray and tear gas.  This is because scleral lenses cover the sensitive corneal surface.  In fact, scleral lenses can offer peace officers a competitive advantage over their colleagues that do not wear them.

Finally, in challenging environments where it is dry, hot, and windy, scleral lenses keep the eye surface hydrated and comfortable by trapping non-preserved saline against the eye surface.

Changes for Scleral Lens Vision Requirements Pending

Although the vision requirements for several occupations disallow rigid contact lenses at the moment, these requirements are based on legacy understandings of the older rigid lens types.  The newer scleral contact lenses are stable on the eye and offer protection.  Most of our patients that wear scleral lenses in occupations with stringent visual requirements just do not ask their employer questions about vision requirements to avoid scrutiny.  While the understanding of many employers has not caught up with the new technology of scleral lenses, there are industry and grass-roots efforts underway to educate the human resource departments of various employers about scleral lenses.

To find out if you are a good candidate for scleral contact lenses with your occupational vision requirements, request your appointment