It’s been a minute or two since my last post about traveling with scleral lenses, so it’s probably time for an update with new products, insights, tips, tricks and strategies.
I’ve done a bit of traveling in the past year, by plane to Seattle, Las Vegas and Scotland/Ireland, and by car to Minnesota, the northeastern states for fall foliage, California to visit Joshua Tree National Park, Indianapolis and Valparaiso, Indiana, a cargo van road trip to Las Vegas, and a hiking trip in the Arcadia, Missouri area. No matter where I go or how I get there, I have to plan supplies for my scleral contact lenses. I need to wear these specialized lenses because I have left-sided facial weakness due to a surgery for hemifacial spasm that resulted in seventh cranial nerve damage (click here for more information). While I have experienced a good bit of recovery, my left eye still does not completely blink or produce tears. Without intervention I am in continual pain (think sand in your eye). I can deal with the pain by applying ointment to that eye, resulting in blurry vision. But add a scleral lens—plus a pair of progressive reading glasses with no distance correction—and my vision is nearly normal with no pain. I cannot overstate the improvement this treatment approach has made to my quality of life.
The trip to Scotland and Ireland was the most extensive and required the highest level of preparation, so most of this post relates to that trip. These are the supplies I packed (in addition to a pair of prescription progressive readers worn in conjunction with scleral lenses and a second pair of prescription glasses with distance correction for use without the contacts):
- For filling: I am one of the fortunate individuals for whom it makes no difference whether or not the preservative-free sterile saline I use for filling my lenses is buffered. Generally I use the more economical 5ml nebulizer saline vials, such as Addipak or Modudose. However for a two-week trip abroad, I decided to take Nutrifill solution because I had read that many scleral wearers find it more comfortable and that it helps with fogging. I also liked the 10ml size — twice that of the nebulizer saline vials. I took sixteen Nutrifill vials in my carry-on and sixteen more in my checked bag. (I always overpack filling solution because preservative-free saline is not readily available in most areas.)
- For cleaning: Who doesn’t love a good sudsy cleaner for their scleral lenses? I used Lobob ESC for many years until is was discontinued. Currently I am using Naturalens GP Cleaner, but it also appears to have been discontinued. I packed my last bottle in my carry-on. I’m not sure what I will use once this bottle is depleted, but I am open to suggestions.
- For rinsing: At home I rinse my lenses with neutralized ClearCare solution from the PROSE case, supplemented by any leftover saline. If my lenses occasionally need additional rinsing, I keep a supply of Target brand saline for sensitive eyes on hand. When I travel, I throw a large bottle in my checked bag. Recently, however, our mail order pharmacy mistakenly sent a 90-day supply (360 syringes) of IV flush saline rather than nebulizer saline. It was just before changing insurance plans, and in order to avoid a potential ordeal trying to return the order, I opted to keep them. The website indicated that the flush saline is preservative free, but erring on the side of caution, I decided to use them for rinsing. I packed 16 syringes in my carry-on and a bunch more in my checked bag.
- For disinfecting: My preferred method of disinfection is ClearCare Triple Action (or equivalent Target generic) in a large PROSE case. Shortly before I began preparing for the trip, I started seeing posts about the discontinuation of travel-size ClearCare, and decided to see if I could find any. Walgreens #1 — out of stock. Target — out of stock. Walmart — out of stock. Panic starts to set in. Walgreens #2 — out of stock. HyVee (a grocery store where I seldom shop) — one lonely bottle on clearance! Score! My local pharmacy — never stocks. Gerbes West (my usual grocery store) — out of stock. A second local pharmacy — out of stock. Well, at least I have one bottle for my carry-on bag. Schnuck’s (a grocery store where I occasionally shop, usually on “Wednesday Wine-day”) — six, count ’em, SIX, bottles. Not on clearance, but I buy them out. And decide that I have enough not to head to the east side of town in search for more. I packed two travel-size ClearCare in my carry-on plus a large bottle of Target brand hydrogen peroxide cleaner in my checked bag.
- For nighttime lubrication: As I first began recovering from my microvascular decompression surgery and needed round the clock eye protection, I tried every type of eye lubricating drop, gel or ointment that I could find. The one that worked best for me was RefreshPM ointment. Even after I began wearing scleral lenses, I used it on my left eye at night. During a prolonged shortage of RefreshPM, my optometrist had me switch to Muro 128 ointment. After RefreshPM was available again, I discovered that a combination of the two ointments worked best for nighttime eye comfort. I took a tube of each in my carry-on bag. I also packed a few vials of TheraTears nighttime eye drops in case my right eye was feeling dry at night. Fortunately this seldom happens.
Additional Supplies: All of these were packed in the carry-on scleral care bag pictured above.
- DMV vented inserter and suction cup remover.
- PROSE scleral lens case for hydrogen peroxide cleaners with a neutralizing disc.
- Jar from Almay 120-count eye makeup remover pads. A perfect fit for the PROSE case, it minimizes solution spills while traveling.
- Contact Lens Accessory Pads, small green sponges used in conjunction with cleaning solution. I cut them into quarters because I find it easier to clean the interior of my lenses. Plus they last longer. I packed eight quarters (two sponges).
- Two spare pairs of lenses in small cases filled with Bio-True solution. I also carried a travel-size bottle of Bio-True in my carry-on.
- Silicon drain cover. More than once this has saved one of my lenses from going down a drain with no stopper. (In the future I will also include a small suction hook so that I can hang the drain cover on the bathroom mirror to dry.)
- Travel size fragrance-free and lotion-free hand soap.
- Lens cleaner and microfiber cloth for cleaning my glasses. Also handy for camera lenses.
- Travel size package of cotton swabs.
- Alcohol wipes.
Most of the products noted are available online from Amazon or the Dry Eye Shop. Many may be available locally from Target, Walmart or Walgreens — the exceptions being the large PROSE case, DMV inserters and removers, and preservative-free saline solution. The latter may be available from a local pharmacy with a prescription, but I have always resorted to Internet purchases.
Whenever I fly, I also carry a letter from my optometrist explaining that I need to take medically necessary fluids for scleral lenses in excess of the 3-1-1 TSA limits. I keep this with my COVID vaccine record and passport.
Check back next week for my top 10 scleral lens travel tips and tricks. Meanwhile, remember that there is no reason to let scleral contact lenses keep you at home. Happy travels!
Would love to hear your strategy for overnight flights and when you wear your sclerals on the plane?
Hi Zak – Monday I will be posting travel tips and tricks that touch on my airplane strategy. I also described it in detail in an earlier post, sarahartman.com/sclerals-on-safari — hope this helps!