Specialty Contact Lenses: Trending Up
By Jason J. Nichols, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
GP contact lenses are thriving like never before. However, as you will note in this issue, there's more to the story than corneal GP lenses. It's really the entire specialty lens category that is alive and well. Contact lens practitioners are enthusiastically fitting torics and multifocals, hybrids, custom soft contact lenses, orthokeratology, and scleral contact lenses like never before and are actively using these lens types to manage irregular corneas, refractive errors, presbyopia, and ocular surface conditions with fervor and spirit.
Without question, one of the most exciting areas of growth has been in the scleral lens category. As noted in Dr. Ed Bennett's GP Annual Report for 2012, in a survey of the GP Lens Institute Advisory Committee (n = 33) inquiring about growth in the GP lens category over the next few years, most responded that they felt it would continue to be in the scleral lens segment. Similarly, in a Contact Lenses Today Quick Poll ending Sept. 16, 2012, respondent practitioners felt that we would continue to see growth over the next two to three years mostly in scleral lenses, followed by custom soft lenses, hybrids, and orthokeratology, respectively. We are continuing to see new lens designs being introduced in each of these categories.
Another exciting area in specialty lens growth has been in multifocal contact lenses—both GP and soft. One of the trends that we have observed over the last few years has been a reduction in monovision fitting, with growth in multifocal lens fitting. Further, in a Contact Lenses Today Quick Poll concluding November 6, 2011, we asked practitioners in which area they anticipated the most growth in contact lens practice in 2012. The majority of respondents (50 percent) said in multifocals. Even with such enthusiasm, there is still more room for innovations in this category. In a Contact Lenses Today Quick Poll ending Jan. 8, 2012, a majority of respondent practitioners (55 percent) indicated that a new multifocal contact lens that is ultra-comfortable and produces the best visual performance ever known ranks highest on their “wish-list.”
It's an exciting time to be a specialty contact lens practitioner and to cultivate your practice in this regard. Take advantage of the opportunities and the vast education resources available to help you along the way. Specialty lens patients tend to be among the most loyal to your practice, so if you pursue this opportunity, I am confident that you and your practice will reap in the benefits both professionally and personally.