Glaucoma and Smart Contact Lenses

Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Glaucoma treatment and smart contact lenses!

Most of us are familiar with contact lenses.  Small round clear plastic lenses that we insert into our eyes and rest on our corneas.  We use them to correct our vision.  That is up to now. 

Smart contact lenses are being developed to monitor disease and dispense drugs.  They do so using embedded sensors and electronics.  They might be able to measure the level of alcohol or cholesterol in your blood and give you an appropriate warning.  These lenses could be both sensors and displays, passing data in and out of the body.  With the use of light emitting elements it is possible to map digital images into your field of vision.

A smart contact is already on the market.  This lens is being used to help patients in the treatment of glaucoma.  It does so by continuously measuring the curvature of the cornea using a strain gauge which is incorporated into the lens.  The advantage is that it provides 24 hour measurements.  In order to treat glaucoma the time of highest pressure is very important.  It is very impractical for a patient to spend 24 hours at an Ophthalmologist’s office having his or her intraocular pressure (IOP) measured.  With this device the Ophthalmologist will have critical information that will aid in the better treatment of the patient.  All the electronics required to handle signal processing and communications are embedded in the contact. An induction wire is used to power and transmit the information.
One drawback of the device is that the induction loop antenna has a very short range and has to be worn very close to the eye.  The antenna has to be taped around the eye socket, giving the appearance of a monocle.  This makes the device less than ideal.  It is foreseen that the patient should wear it once every six month for 24 hours.  The aspiration is that this device will make the treatment of glaucoma more effective.

This smart contact lens is currently approved in eight European countries and approval here is expected by the end of the year.