BCLA CLEAR – Contact lens technologies of the future
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Contact lenses in the future will likely have functions other than correction of refractive error. Lenses designed to control the development of myopia are already commercially available. Contact lenses as drug delivery devices and powered through advancements in nanotechnology will open up further opportunities for unique uses of contact lenses. This review examines the use, or potential use, of contact lenses aside from their role to correct refractive error. Contact lenses can be used to detect systemic and ocular surface diseases, treat and manage various ocular conditions and as devices that can correct presbyopia, control the development of myopia or be used for augmented vision. There is also discussion of new developments in contact lens packaging and storage cases. The use of contact lenses as devices to detect systemic disease has mostly focussed on detecting changes to glucose levels in tears for monitoring diabetic control. Glucose can be detected using changes in colour, fluorescence or generation of electric signals by embedded sensors such as boronic acid, concanavalin A or glucose oxidase. Contact lenses that have gained regulatory approval can measure changes in intraocular pressure to monitor glaucoma by measuring small changes in corneal shape. Challenges include integrating sensors into contact lenses and detecting the signals generated. Various techniques are used to optimise uptake and release of the drugs to the ocular surface to treat diseases such as dry eye, glaucoma, infection and allergy. Contact lenses that either mechanically or electronically change their shape are being investigated for the management of presbyopia. Contact lenses that slow the development of myopia are based upon incorporating concentric rings of plus power, peripheral optical zone(s) with add power or non-monotonic variations in power. Various forms of these lenses have shown a reduction in myopia in clinical trials and are available in various markets.
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