The science of contact lenses is constantly evolving. Here, we showcase some of the most exciting recent developments, plus future innovations to look out for.
A contact lens is a pretty remarkable piece of medical science. This tiny translucent piece of plastic can change the way you see and experience the world. A great example is contact lenses with ‘Digital Zone Optics’ technology to support eye health while using digital devices. “Wearers say they feel less eyestrain and eye tiredness when using screens with these lenses, compared to other lenses,” says Bupa optometrist Karen Makin.
The technology involved in creating contact lenses is constantly evolving, so let’s explore some of the latest cutting-edge breakthroughs, as well as what’s in the pipeline for the future.
One of the biggest advances of recent years is Transitions lenses, which adjust to sunlight – darkening in the sun and lightening indoors – and offer UV protection. This technology has huge appeal for people who spend lots of time outdoors and prefer not to deal with constantly putting sunglasses on and off.
“Transitions contact lenses came out in America first, and we’ve probably had them in Australia for about a year,” says Makin. “It’s been a big innovation.”
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Multifocal contact lenses are relatively new, and the design is constantly being improved, says Makin. These lenses offer both near and distance vision, meaning you don’t need to wear reading glasses over contact lenses. Makin says multifocal lenses have been game-changers for people over the age of 40.
“For a lot of people, they’d get to a certain age and we weren’t able to easily correct their vision anymore because they needed multifocals, and so they stopped wearing contact lenses,” she says. “Now they can continue wearing contact lenses into middle age and beyond.”
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A very exciting recent breakthrough is MiSight, a daily lens designed to slow the progression of myopia in children.
Often known as short-sightedness, myopia is diagnosed when people can see close objects clearly, but more distant objects – such as movie screens or school whiteboards – appear blurry. Rates of myopia are on the rise, due in part to children spending more time focusing on close-up objects such as digital screens and less time outdoors (exposure to natural sunlight helps healthy eye development).
“The younger we start myopia control, the better the prognosis,” says Makin. “We want to try and start it when we first think the child is becoming short-sighted.”
It’s important to get your child’s eyes checked if they’re squinting while reading or watching TV, holding objects close to their face, complaining of frequent headaches or performing poorly at school.
Exciting innovations currently under development include contact lenses embedded with medication that can release tiny amounts into the eye when needed, says Makin. Scientists in the US are even developing lenses that can release antihistamines into the eye for allergy relief. Watch this space!