Are "Smart" Contacts The Future Of Combating Dry Eyes?

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant
Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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If you're one of the estimated 5 million Americans who suffer from dry eyes, you know how frustrating, itchy, and relentless the condition can be.

But thankfully, the latest innovation out of Tohoku University in Japan could soon offer relief to dry eyes everywhere in the form of smart contacts.

The contacts use a moisturizing system to help prevent dry eyes, which sounds pretty groundbreaking for anyone whose contacts have ever scraped their eyes by the end of the day.

Combating dry eyes.

Dry eyes are extremely common. Characterized by scratching and stinging sensations in your eyes, it's even more common if you're female, 50 or older, log a lot of screen time, have an autoimmune condition, or (of course) you wear contacts.

Professor and engineer Matsuhiko Nishizawa says, "Although there have been many recent advancements in new functions for smart contact lenses, there has been little progress in solving the drawbacks associated with wearing contact lenses day to day."

So, in an effort to combat the annoying condition afflicting so many contact wearers, Japanese researchers are working on a solution: a self-moisturizing solution, at that. Their self-moisturizing contacts have a revolutionary layer of fluid that stays comfortably between the lens and the eye, lubricating the lens and preventing dry eyes.

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How does it work?

The contacts work, according to the team of researchers, through an electroosmotic flow (EOF) system that causes liquid to flow when automatically prompted.

"In this case, a current applied to a hydrogel causes fluid to flow upward from the patient's temporary tear reservoir behind the lower eyelid to the surface of the eye," the research explains. Or in English, they help your eyes moisten themselves. And with the possibility of a wireless "biobattery" directly on the contact lens, we may actually be able to "charge" the contacts.

We don't blink as much when wearing contacts, and they also cause more evaporation from the eyes, which is why contacts are often a precursor to dry eyes...which can be a precursor to inflammation and/or wounds on the cornea.

But these novel contacts address exactly that, with Nishizawa adding, "This is the first demonstration that EOF in a soft contact lens can keep the lens moist."

Until they're released...

The potential for smart contacts is exciting on a lot of fronts. For one thing, they could "accelerate vision beyond natural human capabilities," as noted in this research. But honestly, the possibility of self-moisturizing contacts sounds great in and of itself.

They're not ready just yet, though, with further research needed before they hit the market. But when they do, we'll be the first to let you know.

And until then, there are lots of ways you can look out for your eyes; here's what you need to know about blue-light blockers, what you should know about mascara as it relates to eye health, and a few other ideas to care for your eyes.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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