Gas permeable contact lenses: Here to stay?

September 17, 2014

During the Global Contact Lens Forum at Vision Expo West, Jeff Walline, OD, PhD, FAAO, discussed the predicted demise of gas permeable contact lenses.

Las Vegas-During the Global Contact Lens Forum at Vision Expo West, Jeff Walline, OD, PhD, FAAO, discussed the predicted demise of gas permeable contact lenses.

Several years ago, Queensland University of Technology Prof. Nathan Efron, BSc Optom, PhD, DSc, FAAO, predicted that gas permeable lenses would soon be dead. Dr. Walline has a different opinion.

Getting the most out of contact lens retail

Currently, about eight to 10 percent of contact lens fits are with gas permeable lenses. 

Challenges with fitting GP lenses include:

  • Initial adaption

  • Intractable cornea/lid pathology

  • Soft lens advertising

  • Soft lens dispensing sets

  • Decreased GP training

  • Improved Dk/t of soft lenses

  • Improved soft toric/multifocal designs

  • Limited ortho-k fitting

  • Less investment in GP lenses

  • Better aberration control with soft lenses

Gas permeable lenses are appropriate for myopia, hyperopia, presbyopia, astigmatism, and myopia control.

Corneal reshaping lenses are great for kids because these lenses are worn only at home. “This option should be offered to all kids,” said Dr. Walline.

Scleral lenses are increasing in prevalence and in interest by practitioners. A look at PubMed shows a dramatic increase in the number of citations for scleral lenses over the past 20 years. At Vision Expo West, three out of 23 lectures on contact lenses focus on scleral lenses, Dr. Walline commented.

Technology is advancing rapidly,” he said. “Sclerals are getting more and more used. Take advantage of early adaption so you can be a forerunner.”

Overall, interest in gas permeable contact lenses in general is increasing, according to citations in the literature.

Technology in contact lenses is driving interest as well.

  • Innovega allows the wearer to view virtual and augmented reality by seeing images presented on a spectacle lens. “The contact lens allows this to be possible,” said Dr. Walline.

  • Patents are available for GP lenses that would include a projection system to project images directly on the retina.

  • Electro-active contact lens. This lens uses liquid crystals and polymer gels to allow full-view focus at two distances with full-field vision.

  • Lenses are in development for augmented gaming and virtual reality applications.

GP lenses are not obsolete. Growth is steady, and there is potential for increasing growth with scleral lenses and corneal reshaping.

“Anytime you can make yourself unique,” said Dr. Walline, "you can build your practice.

Said Dr. Walline: “An obituary for gas permeable lenses is not necessary. GPs likely won’t become mainstream, but they do allow for a specialty practice. If that’s not of interest to you, refer your patients to a colleague who does fit GPs.