Innovative Technologies That Enhance Vision

An elderly man and his son, arm in arm and smiling.

People get 90% of the information in the world around them through their eyes. Good vision helps people enjoy a higher quality of life. But people’s vision can change due to aging and disease. Researchers are actively studying ways to keep people’s eyes healthy. Review the following innovative technologies that enhance vision.

Sustained-release medications

Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness. Over 3 million Americans live with glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve and impacts vision. Currently, there is no cure for glaucoma. Eye doctors usually prescribe eye drops to preserve vision and slow the progression of the disease.

However, many patients don’t fill the prescription due to cost. Others forget to apply the drops as prescribed or struggle to put drops in their eyes properly. Sometimes patients won’t use the drops because their eyes sting or burn when using the medication.

Now, researchers are perfecting two new glaucoma treatment options:

  1. Implant – Once inserted into the eye, the implant releases glaucoma medication slowly over four to six months, making daily eye drops obsolete.
  2. Contact lenses – Researchers are developing two new lenses for people with glaucoma. One lens style contains glaucoma medication that is released into the eye. Another design contains a sensor that monitors eye pressure. The lens transmits this information to a recorder that a doctor monitors to identify pressure changes.

Gene therapy

For people with diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, treatment usually involves injections in the eye. The injections contain a molecule called Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Inhibitor (known as Anti-VEGF). This molecule slows the formation of abnormal blood vessels that leak blood and fluid, leading to vision loss. Although the treatment is effective, patients need regular injections.

Scientists now are developing a new gene therapy that requires only one injection. It enables the retina to make Anti-VEGF, making the treatment process more convenient and effective.

High-tech contact lenses

Contact lenses were originally designed to improve people’s vision. But scientists are developing contact lenses that go beyond correcting vision. Here are six new smart contact lenses:

  1. Transition – For years, people have worn prescription eyeglasses that darken when outdoors. New transition contact lenses feature a photochromic filter that adjusts the amount of light entering the eye. The lenses darken when in bright sunlight and return to normal indoors.
  2. Myopia – New soft contact lenses help restore vision in children ages 8 to 12 who experience myopia (nearsightedness). The lenses slow the progression of myopia by reshaping the cornea. The lenses redirect how light hits the cornea. These new daily-wear lenses are disposable.
  3. Low vision – People with low vision have limited sight. They are not blind, but they cannot clearly see objects and people. The vision problem cannot be corrected by surgery, medical treatments or eyeglasses. It’s more common in adults over age 45 and frequently occurs in adults over age 75. Scientists have developed a smart contact lens that magnifies images so sufferers can better see people and objects.
  4. Allergies – Many people with allergies experience red, itchy eyes. A new contact lens design contains antihistamines to control reactions to allergies. The medicine, called ketotifen, is released from the lenses into the eye.
  5. Blood sugar monitoring – People with diabetes need to monitor blood sugar Researchers have created a new contact lens that checks people’s blood sugar and alerts them when they exceed a healthy level.
  6. Telescopic –A new contact lens designed for people with macular degeneration. The lenses contain tiny telescopes that zoom in and out to adjust and magnify vision.

American Academy of Ophthalmology