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Contact Lenses Advance to Detect and Address Eye Health Issues

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses have evolved substantially since they first became popular in the 1950s. Their medical applications are starting to go above and beyond what might have been expected of lenses just a decade ago. Medically, lens prescribing trends indicate that UK hospitals are more likely to fit patients with contact lenses to treat keratoconus. 61% of all contact lenses fitted now are actually for this condition. 

It’s inevitable in medical advancement as technology enables more innovative and robust lens functionality. Today, we are looking at an already high-tech lens market, which will only jump further with the advent of smart lenses and symptom-detection features.

The evolution of the contact lens market

Innovation has kept contact lenses alive, which is why plenty of options are available to lens wearers today. Buying contact lenses online is much more convenient now that reputable sources backed by practitioners have their own platforms. This gives users access to products capable of treating eye conditions more robustly than their predecessors. Air Optix uses TriComfort technology to create a moisture-retaining lens to treat dry eyes while integrating toric lenses for astigmatism. Because of tech that prevents protein deposit build-ups, these lenses can be worn for up to 16 hours a day.

Even daily lenses have hit their stride, with the Acuvue Oasys offering UV protection filters integrated into the lens. This feature doesn’t impact their visual clarity, either. These are coated in HydraLuxe tech to maintain a frictionless application and keep the eyes moist. Despite coming so far, there is still plenty of progress to aim for overall. Integrating electronics is all the buzz in next-gen contact lenses, but numerous projects aim to go beyond vision correction in functionality. Additionally, brands like Lexx aim to reduce the environmental impact of lens usage by using less plastic and water than the market average. Many strive to create a more sustainable lens solution without sacrificing its safety and functionality.

Smart contact lenses and eye health

One of the most promising advancements in contact lens technology is the prospect of detecting and addressing health issues through artificial intelligence (AI) and electronics. This goal is getting closer to becoming a reality for the public as the multimodal AI language model ChatGPT 4 even outperformed clinicians in a Cambridge test meant to simulate triage for patients with eye-related symptoms. Extensive knowledge banks and on-the-fly logical reasoning drive AI to the forefront of contact lens research. Countless players are trying to create the ultimate smart contact lens for detecting and addressing eye issues.

Azalea Vision has already demonstrated its smart contact lens prototype on the eye. The prototype is meant to “offer a non-surgical solution” to photophobia, presbyopia, keratoconus, and corneal irregularity. By using medical microchipping and liquid-crystal tech, the contact lens can provide visual therapy specifically attuned to the wearer.

Chinese universities have likewise developed a smart contact lens with a dual-sensing platform to monitor intraocular pressure and matrix metalloproteinase-9. Using noninvasive biosensors, these lenses can monitor health and diagnostic biomarkers in human tears. POSTECH is also conducting clinical trials to create soft contact lenses with capacitance sensors to continuously monitor internal fluid pressure in the eye. Consistently monitoring IOP is meant to minimise the risk of developing glaucoma.

Right now, global partnerships are also underway across the board. A team of scientists from the L V Prasad Eye Institute, the University of Bradford, and the University of Sheffield are working on a smart contact lens that tests for eye infections. The diagnosis is meant to be completed within just an hour of wear, vastly improving the current length of time fungal or bacterial infections are tested in eye infections.

The race to release impressive medical-grade contact lenses is at full speed, and contact lens wearers will only benefit from whoever gets there first.

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