Contact Lenses Can Distribute Drugs to the Eye
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an easy way to put medications into the eye without having to deal with messy eye drops? Eye drops are irritating, inefficient and difficult to use. Right now researchers are working to develop specialized contact lenses that will be able to slowly dispense various medications into the eye. These contact lenses should be able to provide time released medications that can help those with dry eyes, glaucoma and other eye conditions.
Why Are Eye Drops Ineffective?
Eye drops are currently the most commonly used method for administering eye medication. It is estimated that 90% of eye medications are eye drops. While eye drops are common, they are very ineffective. Less than 10% of the medication in an eye drop actually makes it into the eye. The rest of the medication drips out of the eye or runs down the back of the throat. Many people find eye drops to be uncomfortable which further reduces the efficiency of this medication choice as people may choose to skip or forget to take required eye drop dosages.
Why Are Contact Lenses an Ideal Solution?
Contact lenses are an ideal solution to the many problems associated with eye drops. If eye medications are dispensed using a contact lens, medications will make it into the eye. This will allow doctors to help regulate dosages and treat eye problems more effectively. In addition contact lenses are much easier to use than eye drops. Most people are comfortable using contact lenses. Some medications cannot be applied using eye drops and medicated contact lenses may allow more treatment options to become readily available to those with eye problems. These lenses may result in more eye medications becoming available.
Development of Medication Dispensing Contacts
These specialized medicated contact lenses have been a dream of medical researchers for many years. Some early versions of the idea were created as early as the 1960s. One of the biggest problems that researchers have encountered is the inability to effectively regulate the amount of medication dispensed. This problem has been overcome in recent months due to the use of a special polymer known as PLGA. This polymer allows precise levels of drugs to be distributed into the eye over an extended period of time. The polymer is used to create a substance known as hydrogel which is currently used in many other medical applications.
The most recent version of these lenses is still in the development process, but researchers are hopeful that a version of these drug dispensing contacts will be ready for public use in the next few years. Early lab tests in testing dishes have shown promise. These lenses are now undergoing animal testing and should be ready for clinical trials soon. The lenses in testing can release ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic used in the eye, for up to 100 days. Since FDA regulations only allow contacts to be used for 30 days, these contacts could be a great solution to the eye drop dilemma. They are being tested and designed by Dr. Daniel Kohane, the lead researcher, for Cambridge Eye-novations.
How Are These Special Contacts Designed?
These medication dispensing contact lenses are created using a compound known as hydrogel. Basically researchers dissolve a special polymer known as PLGA into a solvent base. Then they add in the desired drug. The solvent evaporates leaving behind the PLGA and drug combination. This is then coated in hydrogel, which is commonly used to make disposable contact lenses. The design of these lenses do not impact vision.
What Conditions Could These Lenses Treat?
Drug dispensing contact lenses could potentially be used to treat many different eye conditions. Researchers are currently hoping to use these lenses to dispense glaucoma medication. They may also provide relief for those suffering from chronic dry eye syndrome or corneal ulcers. Contact lenses with antibiotics could be used to lessen the occurrence of eye infection after surgery.
What Does This Mean for the Future?
The future of drug dispensing contact lenses is still unknown, but researchers hope that this hydrogel and polymer contact lens will someday be able to provide a more effective method for dispensing drugs into the eye. If researchers are able to perfect this idea it will change the way that eye medications are dispensed and could even lead to new treatment options for eye conditions.
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