Divine Vision

Specialized contact lenses counter corneal disease.

Miami native Juaneishia Portier, 38, loves her hometown, but she’s been happy to call Daytona Beach home since 2000. Juaneishia is currently single and has no children, but she looks forward to what the future may bring. For now, she stays busy with her activities and her family.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

Juaneishia’s special contact lenses give her the freedom to drive both during the day and at night.

“Exercise is one of my favorite hobbies,” she shares. “I love to exercise, and I currently do spinning, aerobics and Zumba®. I’m a member of the YMCA, and I like to do yoga as well. I also love to spend time with my family and just be adventurous.”

As a career, Juaneishia works as an insurance underwriter. She primarily underwrites homeowner’s insurance. Her life, she says, pretty much revolves around working, spending time with her family and traveling.

“Most of my traveling has been within the United States,” Juaneishia notes. “I’ve been to nearby states like Georgia, but I’ve also been to the Bahamas. I desire to experience places outside of the country, to get on a plane and just go. My ultimate travel destination is Dubai. I see many people on Facebook traveling there, and it seems like a nice place to go.

“For years, I wanted to do more activities, but I was limited. I had to put everything on hold due to having keratoconus. It’s an eye disease that thins my corneas and makes them protrude like a football, and it makes it harder to see. It limited many things I wanted to do and even my day-to-day life, including work, but I got through by improvising.”

Juaneishia’s keratoconus was diagnosed when she was 23, and it was considered mild at first. It wasn’t until she was 28 that it became severe. Initially, Juaneishia was treated using rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses. Unfortunately, she developed an issue with the lens in one eye

“Those contacts sit directly on the area of the cornea that’s protruding,” Juaneishia describes. “Wearing them, I had to be very careful because they shifted throughout the day. They eventually started producing wear and tear on my corneas.

“One day, the contact in my right eye severely scraped the cornea. So much scar tissue formed that I couldn’t wear the lens in that eye any longer. I went from age twenty-eight to thirty-eight wearing a contact only in my left eye. So for ten years, I drove, worked and did whatever I had to do to survive seeing clearly out of only one eye.”

The situation with her eyes eventually took a toll on Juaneishia at her job and in her day-to-day tasks. So much so that she looked deeply into having corneal transplant surgery following a recommendation from her eye doctor. A corneal transplant replaces a diseased cornea with healthy donor tissue.

After seeing a transplant specialist, Juaneishia decided to see another specialist in South Miami for a second opinion. She was told about an alternative option before pursuing a corneal transplant: scleral contact lenses.

“I’m a true believer in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and one day while driving through Ormond Beach, I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to go to Premier Eye Clinic,” Juaneishia relates. “I contacted the office and was told a doctor there was trained to fit scleral contact lenses.”

Optically Perfect Shape

The doctor Juaneishia met is Ashley Royce, OD, an optometrist at Premier Eye Clinic, which also has a location in Port Orange, Dr. Royce says that when light touches a misshapen cornea such as Juaneishia’s, it scatters. This is why patients with corneal disease may not see clearly.

“Because the cornea’s shape is the issue, eyeglasses offer limited help in improving vision,” Dr. Royce adds. “Doctors start by improving vision in patients with keratoconus by fitting them with rigid gas permeable contact lenses, but Juaneishia’s case was so severe in one eye that traditional gas permeable contacts wouldn’t work well. They wouldn’t improve her vision, and they’d be uncomfortable. A scleral lens is a much better option for Juaneishia.”

Scleral contact lenses are a specialized type of rigid gas permeable, or RGP, contact lens. While they’ve been in use for decades, advances in technology make today’s lenses more breathable and, therefore, more comfortable. Their optical design has been upgraded recently as well.

“A scleral contact is a large-diameter gas permeable lens,” Dr. Royce describes. “It vaults over the cornea and lands on the sclera, the white part of the eye. Doing that, it creates an optically perfect shape. As a result, light transmits through that contact lens and goes directly to the retina so the patient is able to see more clearly.”

Dr. Royce uses scleral lenses to treat multiple corneal conditions, including severe dry eye and various irregularities of the cornea due to scarring, injury or even previous corneal surgeries.

Scleral lenses are filled with saline before they are placed in the eye. The lens is shaped like a small bowl, and the fluid creates a cushion between the cornea and contact lens. When the scleral lens is inserted in the eye, the cornea takes on the shape of the perfectly round contact lens.

“Scleral contact lenses are effective for severe dry eye because that pocket of fluid that gets inserted on the eye stays there,” Dr. Royce informs. “The lens creates a liquid bandage of sorts on the cornea, which helps to protect it from getting really dry.

“Scleral lenses play an important role in improving the vision of patients with corneal conditions who may not see well in glasses, soft contacts or traditional RGP lenses. There are many new technologies and advancements in contact lenses in general that are helping us improve our patients’ vision.”

“The Sky’s the Limit”

“These scleral contacts were the best thing for me,” Juaneishia enthuses. “It’s like somebody put new eyeballs in me. Getting these contacts is by far better than getting a corneal transplant.

“My vision is perfect now. These scleral contacts are working like they’re supposed to, and I’ve got my life back. I shed tears of joy because I feel like a new person, and I’m not limited anymore.

“Before I got these contacts, I was wearing only one contact lens, and I couldn’t drive at night. Now, I’m getting ready to go parasailing, which is something I’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because of my condition. And my next adventure is jumping out of a plane. I can do these things because of the scleral lenses. I feel that the sky’s the limit for me.”

Juaneishia believes that visiting Dr. Royce and Premier Eye Clinic was an excellent choice for her. She lauds the optometrist’s keen expertise
and kind manner.

“It was a blessing for me to meet Dr. Royce,” Juaneishia marvels. “She was an angel from the time I stepped into her office. She really cares about her patients, and she cares that they get what they’re looking for. She’s very nice, informative and supportive, and she was a great help to me. She’s now my go-to doctor for yearly exams.

“Dr. Royce is a true gem in her craft. She’s a miracle. I advise anyone who’s dealing with keratoconus or another eye disease to go to her. I thank God for
Dr. Royce, and I’m so glad I listened to the Holy Spirit and went to Premier Eye Clinic!”

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