Medicated contact lenses loaded with dietary supplement vitamin E could keep glaucoma, and eventual blindness, at bay, according to a new report.
In a presentation at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, researchers said medicated contact lenses could keep medicine closer to the eye, where it can treat glaucoma, a common eye disease, for nearly 100 times longer than is currently possible.
Affecting approximately 70 million people -- 2 million in the United States alone -- glaucoma is second to cataracts as the leading cause of vision loss and blindness around the world.
Glaucoma involves a slow increase of fluid pressure inside the eye, which over time presses on the optic nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain, damaging it.
The disease is usually treated with eye drops that relieve the abnormal build-up of pressure inside the eye.
Research team leader Anuj Chauhan of the University of Florida in Gainesville said that medicated contacts prevent the body's tears from carrying the drug away from its targeted tissue.
To combat this, the researchers developed an extended-release delivery approach using invisible clusters, or aggregates, of vitamin E molecules that service as barriers to slow the transfer of the medication from lens to eye.
It's a simple delaying tactic, really: by forcing the medication to go around the vitamin E molecules and take a longer path to the eye, the researchers ensure that the medication doesn't get swept away too quickly.
The researchers developed transparent lenses that can be worn continuously for up to a month. Clinical trials of the new lenses may begin within a year or two.
The advancement doesn't just help glaucoma patients, either: those who suffer from other eye conditions, such as cataracts and dry eye, could also benefit.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com