Smart Contacts: Turning Science Fiction into Science Fact

Blogs on this website usually alert you to proven ways to protect, improve or restore your vision. This time, we’re discussing an invention that could transform your approach to health care: smart contact lenses.

Smart contacts

You may have heard of smart glasses, which perform a variety of functions in the manner of a phone. They’re entertainment-focused and can act as portable music players, augmented reality screens, gaming devices, fitness trackers and so on.

But smart contacts, which could be used in place of conventional eyeglasses, may someday be much more essential to your well-being. They could monitor your health, deliver medication and even relieve allergies. And they could be attached to prescription lenses to give you 20/20 vision.

Can I Get Smart Contacts Now?

We say “someday” because prototypes of these amazing and complex devices are in the works. However, none of them has received FDA approval yet. (And, of course, they’re even further off from insurance companies’ approval.) Investors and developers are considering the design problems and desired functions from all sides.

Certain innovations already exist. For instance, you can now get contact lenses that deliver antihistamines for eye allergy relief while still improving your vision. But smart contacts of the future will go far beyond that.

How Might Smart Contacts Help with Health?

Aside from improved vision, they could detect diseases early or monitor blood sugar levels. They could even perform other medical monitoring, such as intraocular pressure or early onset glaucoma.

These lenses work by sandwiching a low-power microchip and an almost invisible, hair-thin electronic circuit between two layers of soft lens material. Using this technology, the lens could measure blood sugar levels directly from tear fluid on the surface of the eyeball. The system could even send this information to a mobile device, so the wearer would continually be informed about blood sugar levels.

Health monitoring through tears holds other possibilities. Scientists at the University of California-Irvine isolated a disease-fighting protein in human tears, which could help diagnose eye diseases and perhaps lead to early detection of certain cancers. Since human eyes contain lipids, proteins, electrolytes and other molecules, smart lenses could help doctors continually monitor patients to detect diseases quickly. And even quicker if wirelessly connected to the cloud.

Smart Contacts for Diabetics

The National Science Foundation has paid for research into the ways smart contacts could help patients with diabetes. Though some diabetics wear glucose monitors under their skin, all must prick their fingers and test their blood throughout the day. That’s painful, expensive and so disruptive that some people do so less often than they should. Smart contacts would handle the test for them.

Google’s “smart lens” technology for diabetics is already being reviewed by the FDA. It was originally developed by Google X, the research and development lab responsible for Google Glass, Internet connectivity balloons and the company’s self-driving cars.

Will Smart Contacts Help Vision?

Many patients suffer from presbyopia, where the lens of the eye loses its ability to focus and makes it difficult to see objects up close. Loss of near vision, which is typically associated with aging, usually occurs sometime after 40 years old.

A smart lens might assess the vision of people suffering from presbyopia and autofocus their eyes on whatever they see, the way an automatic camera lens focuses when taking a picture. Patients could avoid the need for glasses when reading or looking at monitors and cell phones.

A Wide-Open Future

Some experts think smart lenses fitted with batteries, cameras, and sensors will be made available to the public as soon as the research and development phase is complete. These lenses would carry their own tiny power supplies and wireless communicators, so they’d be the least invasive way to monitor various health conditions.

Doctors at Horizon Eye Care will stay abreast of these developments and offer smart lenses to patients as soon as they’re commercially available and safe to use. Watch this space!

Though smart contacts are not yet available through Horizon Eye Care, to schedule a consultation for other vision-related needs, call 704-365-0555 Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The optical department closes on Fridays at 2:30 p.m.

Zach Rorabaugh, COO

Zach Rorabaugh, COO

Zach has been Chief Operating Officer of Horizon Eye Care since 2018. As COO, he oversees all business operations for the organization while executing the strategic vision of the Board of Directors. Zach is responsible for the establishment and implementation of organizational culture for the practice as he empowers the leadership team to execute key strategic initiatives. His focus is leveraging the practice’s expertise, technology and regional footprint to provide the highest quality services and exceptional value to its patients.