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Smart Contact Lenses to Replace Eye-Drops

And yet more technological progress in the realm of contact lenses has been announced this week, with the announcement hat Auburn University has developed some special contact lenses that can be used to gradually dispense medicine into the eye.

The Auburn University team of chemical and biomedical engineers led by Mark Byrne, the Daniel F. and Josephine Breeden associate professor in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, has developed these new types of lenses which will slowly and continuously deliver eye medication all the time the lenses are being worn.

Correct Vision and Deliver Medication Simultaneously

What’s more, as well as delivering the medication in a constant flow, the lenses can still be used to correct vision if necessary, or they even come in neutral lenses that won’t interfere with a patient’s natural vision.  It is envisaged that these lenses will be used to deliver anti-biotics, anti-inflammatories or anti-allergy medication directly to the eye.

These new ‘smart’ lenses come in two varieties: Daily Wear lenses that can be worn for 24 hours continuously or continuous wear lenses that can be worn for up to 30 days.  All the time the lenses are worn, they are continuously delivering small, measured doses of the medication.  This is a definite improvement on eye drops which normally are washed away by teas within 30 minutes of being inserted into the eyes.

Speaking of his new lenses, Byrne said; “Eye drops and ointments make up more than 90 percent market share, but are an inefficient, inconvenient method. Our lenses offer the increased efficacy and efficiency of drug delivery, which translates to better eye health.”

He continued: “Unlike other contact lens technologies, we make our lenses. These aren’t contacts soaked in a medication that only release for a very short time. We are administering a drug through controlled release by creating drug memory in the lens structure while maintaining all of the other lens properties.”

It sounds like a winner to me, but what do you think about it?

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Contact Lens Anti-biotics for Soldiers Being Developed

And yet more news on how contact lenses can be used to deliver medicines.  Earlier I talked about contact lenses that can deliver eye medications without affecting people’s vision.  Today I’m excited to report a new type of contact lens that has been designed specifically to treat injured soldiers on battlefields.

40% of injuries sustained by soldiers in war are to the eyes.  At the moment, eye-drops are the only method of treating these injuries, but in a busy field hospital, it can be difficult for those looking after the wounded to find the time to administer eye drops, especially when you consider all the other wounds they are trying to treat.

As a result of this, many soldiers lose some or all of their vision.

Contact Lens to the Rescue

So scientists affiliated with St. John’s Medical Research Institute have come up with a prototype lens that will deliver the anti-biotics necessary to help save sight in a constant, measured fashion.

The Institute has received $4.8 billion research grant to help fund its studies into treating eye injuries on the battlefield.

The new lens is clear in the middle but white around the edges from the microscopic fibres embedded in the lens. These fibres have been soaked in a form of prednisone, a steroid and current tests have shown it to give measured doses for up to seven days.

This would make it far easier for medical staff  to treat eye injuries as it would take hardly any time at all to insert contact lenses into the injured soldier’s eyes whilst looking after the soldier’s other wounds and then let the lens take care of the eye injury.

Potentially, this could save the sight of lots of soldiers, but not only that, it could also be used in everyday life too.  Now that really would be a sight for sore eyes.


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Strange Alternatives to Cleaning Lotion

A recent study by contact lens manufacturer Bausch & Lomb has found that some contact lens wearers will try almost anything to clean their lenses.

As hard to believe as it is, some contact lens wearers would rather risk their eyesight than use contact lens cleaning solution.

Drinks are for drinking!

Amazingly out of the 2000 patients surveyed, some 20% admitted to using a home-made alternative to contact lens cleaning solution to clean their lenses.

Amongst the strange materials used to clean contact lenses are beer, baby oil, cola, lemonade, petroleum jelly, butter and fruit juice.

I can see why some people might choose to use alcohol; I mean vodka or gin is a good anti-sceptic and if you can use it to clean wounds, you could see why people might think it was okay to use to clean their lenses.  One thing that I think they are forgetting, however, is just how painful alcohol is on open wounds and they want to put it in their eyes?

A bit of spit and polish?

Amazingly, many respondents to the survey, carried out in August 2011, admitted to using saliva or water to clean their lenses.  Saliva?  They can’t be serious! And we know that all sorts of micro-organisms live in water, why would you want to put them in your eyes?

Speaking about the survey, Nick Dash, an optometrist from Visual Edge Optometrists, said: “Although the numbers for the more extreme examples such as beer and baby oil were low, it is most concerning to see the risks people are willing to take when it comes to their eye health.”

He continued: “Alcohol, found in beer, is corrosive on the cornea and can cause serious lasting damage, while baby oil can irritate the eye and cause severe blurring.”

Let’s just stick to contact lens cleaning solution shall we?  It was created for a reason; to keep our eyes clean and healthy.  This is not an area where home-made is as good as shop-bought.

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Study Proves Zeaxanthin Reverses Sight Problems in the Elderly

This is an exciting piece of news.  Remember a few weeks ago I blogged about how certain foods can keep your eyes healthy?  Well, one of the supplements found in foods that I said particularly benefited eye-sight was Zeaxanthin.  Now a study carried out Stuart Richer, PhD, OD at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago, has proved that taking a daily supplement of 8 mg of dietary Zeaxanthin not only stops vision loss, but also improves night vision and recognition of fine detail.

Real, Measurable Improvement in Vision Recorded

The study of 60 veterans with age-related Macular degeneration showed that after taking an 8mg dose of Zeaxanthin every day, these veterans could drive better at night, lost all their previous blind spots and were able to better read eye charts, being able to read on average 8.5 letters or 1.5 lines of letters more than they could before taking Zeaxanthin.

Zeaxanthin Better than Lutein

The participants in the study took 8mg of Zeaxanthin, 9mg of Lutein or a combination of both supplements daily over the 12 month study period.  Each veteran underwent comprehensive eye exams, including a Macular Pigment Optical Density exam.

The macular is located at the back of the eye and in healthy eyes, Zeaxanthin and Lutein are found in a ratio of 2:1, with the Zeaxanthin protecting the cones in the eye which are responsible for colour perception and focussing on fine details. In people with age-related Macular degeneration, this ratio is much lower, which affects their vision.

The study proved that Zeaxanthin improved vision far better than traditional Lutein supplements.

But You Don’t Need to Take a Supplement

Despite the fact that Zeaxanthin can be found in dark, leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, collard greens, kale, leeks, lettuce and spinach as well as in brightly coloured citrus fruits, not enough people eat enough foods containing Zeaxanthin to reap the benefits.

Yet, when you consider the alternatives: eating greens or slowly losing your vision, I know which one I’d go for.  And now science has backed it up.  So, either take a supplement or boost your intake of healthy eye foods.  You know it’s worth it.

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Almost Legally Blind Man Sees Again Thanks to Implantable Contact Lenses

I thought I’d start the week with a feel-good story.

In August, a man from Montana who has been classed as almost legally blind since childhood underwent surgery to have implantable contact lenses placed into his eyes.  He now has almost 20/20 vision in each eye.

Casey Lang, from Missoula, Montana was the first person in the town to undergo this surgery.  Four more people have had the surgery since he had it.

What are Implantable Contact Lenses?

Implantable Contact Lenses or as they are also known, phakic ICLs, are contact lenses that are surgically implanted into the eyes to correct vision. They are used when standard Lasik or Lasek Eye Surgery wouldn’t work.

I know in the past I’ve talked about self-focussing lenses, but they have yet to be developed, whilst this is an amazing and real piece of technology that is already being used to change lives.

How Do They Work?

The ICLs are made from a material called Collamer which is compatible with the structure of the eye, so there is no risk of rejection or complications.

If your optician thinks you are a suitable candidate for ICL surgery, they will take accurate measurements of your eyes and have a specially made lens constructed for you.

Most cases of ICL surgery are for myopia as people who are short-sighted have slightly larger eyes than long-sighted people.  Whilst ICL can be carried out on long-sighted people, it all depends on the size of their eyes.  There needs to be enough room in the eye to comfortably accommodate the lens.

During surgery, which is carried out under local anaesthetic, a small incision is made either into the iris or into the cornea and the lens is inserted.  If the incision is made in the cornea, it is normally so small that it is self-healing – no stitches are needed.

The main advantage of these ICLs is that your eye continues to function normally, i.e. it continues to use its own natural lens for close up work and only uses the added ICL when it needs to focus on things far away.  However, this means that the eyes must still be capable of doing self-focussing.  For this reason, ICL surgery is only suitable for people aged between 21 and 50.

If this is you, this might be something worth considering.

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Number of UK Motorists Banned Because of Poor Vision Increasing

Last week the Co-operative Motor Group released a study that shows that the number of British motorists who have had their licence revoked due to poor eyesight has doubled in the past four years.

Recently, car insurance firm, esure, has carried out a survey into the vision of British drivers and found some shocking results.

Driving Without Glasses or Lenses

This latest survey of 1025 drivers found that almost a quarter of those surveyed; some 24%, had driven without their glasses or lenses, despite needing them to see clearly when driving.  Of this 24%, an unbelievable 12% said they regularly drove without their lenses or glasses!  Why?  I mean, I wear lenses or glasses to drive.  I’m myopic.  I can’t see without them.  How do they feel comfortable driving when they can’t see properly!  I just don’t understand it.

What’s also hard to believe is that 8% of those surveyed could not read a number plate at 20 metres.  Come, on!  This is the most basic test of vision which is needed to pass the UK driving test, surely, if you can’t do that you know you need to wear lenses or glasses.

45% felt that their vision had worsened since they took their test.  Well, that’s hardly surprising; in most of us vision does fail as we get older and whilst most of the drivers polled did go for an eye examination at least once every three years, almost ten percent of those surveyed did not.  Hmm, maybe it’s that old trick of ignoring something and maybe it will go away?

Slowing Down to Read Signs

I wonder if those who won’t have their eyes tested are part of the 42% of drivers who said they have to slow down to read road signs.  I’m sure they’re definitely part of the 27% who have to ask their passengers to read road signs for them.  Who is getting into the car with these drivers?  If someone was driving me and couldn’t read a road sign, I’d get out of the car pretty damn quick.  If they can’t read road signs, can they truly, honestly, read the road?  I don’t think so.

Lenses to the rescue

I mean, I guess in one way I can understand why people might occasionally forget to put their glasses on to drive.  But if this is happening regularly, then get contact lenses fitted!  You can’t forget them.  Plus, you don’t have to worry about looking ‘old’ by having to wear glasses. No-one can tell you’re wearing contacts, except you’ll be a safer driver because of it.

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Triggerfish Contact Lens Spots Glaucoma Where Other Tests Don’t

We first heard of the Triggerfish electronic sensor back in 2009, and now this amazing piece of contact lens technology is being used to spot glaucoma in patients where the traditional intraocular pressure or IOP test carried out at the optician’s fails to make a diagnosis.

The Triggerfish is already being used in Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain as of last week; it is now being used in Britain too by Mr Qureshi, of the London Eye Hospital.

Raised eye pressure, known as intraocular pressure, is a key indicator of glaucoma. The problem with a traditional IOP test is that the intraocular pressure at the time of the test might not be particularly high.  This could lead to a false negative result being given by the optician and lead, therefore, to a delay in diagnosing glaucoma and starting treatment for this sight robbing disease.

How Does It Work?

The Triggerfish is a small electronic sensor that sits on a silicon contact lens and monitors IOP throughout a complete 24 hour period.  The patient also has to wear a small adhesive antenna on the side of their head, which receives the data from the lens and transmits it to a small, battery operated recorder. The lens, which is even worn when the patient is sleeping, records IOP levels and these results are sent to the recorder via the antenna.

After the day is up, the patient returns to the optician’s clinic where the lens is removed and the data from the recorder is analysed on a computer.  This revolutionary piece of technology enabled Mr Qureshi to diagnose glaucoma in its earliest stages in Mr Michael Sleddon from Leamington Spa.

Not Only Useful For Diagnosis Either

The Triggerfish, which can be worn by anyone who is not allergic to silicon, or not suffering from any eye infections or redness at the time, can not only be used to diagnose glaucoma, but also to monitor how well patients are responding to their glaucoma treatments.

Now this is the kind of bionic eye that I think none of us would mind wearing.  But what do you think?

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World’s Thinnest Disposable Lens Packaging is Unveiled

Menicon, a Japanese manufacturer of contact lenses and contact lens cleaning solutions has revealed that it will be launching the world’s thinnest contact lens in Japan in April 2012.

The new ‘magic’ lens comes in a unique design flat-pack which is only 2.5% of the thickness and just 40% of the volume of a conventional contact lens storage packs. This means you’ll no longer have any excuse not to take your disposables with you as they will fit into pockets quite easily.  So no more sleeping in lenses then!

New Style of Packaging

The new style of packaging sandwiches the two lenses between sheets of foil as opposed to having lenses float in solution.  As such the new packaging is also more hygienic than standard packaging in that when it is unwrapped it always presents the outside surface of the lens, thus removing any risk of accidentally touching the inside of the lens and transferring any germs, dirt or bacteria onto it.

First HEMA-GMA lens in Japan

The ‘magic’ lens itself is also quite impressive.  Magic will be the first contact lens in Japan to utilize HEMA-GMA (2-Hydroxyethyl Methacrylate-Glycerol Methacrylate), a lens material offering superior water retention to help to prevent dry eyes.

Magic lenses are available in powers ranging from -0.50 to -6.00.   We’ll have to wait and see if and when they become available in the rest of the world.

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Britons Not Going for Eye Tests Because of Cost Fears

Research carried out by the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine has discovered that people are being put off going for eye tests because they fear that their opticians will try and sell them expensive products.

Professor Darren Shickle, who led the research into the public’s perceptions of opticians, said that this was a major problem facing opticians today.

His study was launched as it was discovered that many in the Leeds area were not taking advantage of the free eye-sight tests they were entitled to and the University wanted to find out why.

Salesmanship Putting People Off

Many of those contacted said that they were scared of visiting the optician, even though they were entitled to free NHS eye tests, as they were worried about the costs of lenses, tints and ‘extras’ that they felt they might be pressurised into buying.

Several reported that in the past they had been guided away from NHS frames and other cheaper frames and lenses to more expensive ones.  They also expressed concern that the price advertised for the glasses was rarely the one they paid once things like tints and scratch resistant coatings had been applied.

Although contact lenses weren’t mentioned in this report, I have the feeling that these would also be an area of concern as many people mistakenly believe that these are always going to be the more expensive option, compared to glasses. Many are unaware of the wide range of lenses available or the fact that once armed with a prescription they could buy their lenses online and save themselves quite a bit of money.

Better PR is needed

Professor Shickle believes that opticians need to work hard to improve their public relations, so that people see them as providing vital health checks and not just as a way of getting cash out of them.


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New Operation to Change Eye Colour Announced

This is making big news on both sides of the pond.  Dr Gregg Homer from California has developed a new type of laser eye surgery to permanently change the colour of peoples’ eyes. That is if they have brown eyes and want blue ones.

His Lumineyes technology uses a specially tuned laser to remove melanin from brown eyes.  Then over a period of up to three weeks, the eyes change colour from brown to blue.

Now whilst many people might be grateful for this, it is an irreversible operation and there’s no knowing what kind of damage it could do to the eye.

What does Melanin Do?

Melanin not only colours brown eyes, it also protects them from dangerous UV rays.  If melanin is removed the eyes lose this protection.  Sociologists and scientists both now believe that the reason for the prevalence of brown eyes in countries with high temperatures is due to the fact that people with brown eyes are better protected from sun damage.

In addition to this, melanin also minimizes the number of light beams entering the eye and absorbs scattered light within the eye, thus increasing sharpness of vision.

What’s more, once melanin has been removed, it doesn’t come back.

Studies Not Yet Complete

Lumineyes is not yet ready for full-scale use yet; Dr Homer’s company has begun limited human testing but now needs money to complete the trials.  If he gets the funding he requires he is hoping to be able to carry out the Lumineyes operation in the US within three years and in the rest of the world within the next 18 months.

Personally, I would be very wary of this new operation.  No-one knows if removing the melanin could have other, unexpected side effects apart from the loss of UV protection and the loss of vision sharpness.

I’m going to stick with coloured contact lenses.  If they are bought from reputable stores and cleaned properly, they are safe.  Plus I can change my eye colour whenever I want to and not worry about losing UV protection or the sharpness of my vision.

But what do you think about it?

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