The Smart Contact Lens Bubble

smart contact lenses

New technology is being created faster and faster these days. The rapid pace of development in the tech sector is changing the world around us in fantastic ways, connecting all aspects of our lives through tiny gadgets. In less than ten years we’ve seen the release of the first smart watch, the IPhone, the first smart TV and internet connected cars among many innovations. The internet of things, as it has become to be called, is only in its infancy, but tech companies are trying to find new and imaginative ways to integrate the World Wide Web into our lives.  Our clothing, think of the self-drying coat and self-tying shoes from Back to the future 2, our kitchen appliances, refrigerators that tell you what food and when you need to buy it, and even our books, have become internet connected.  The newest gizmo in the internet of things that is soon to be released is the smart contact lens.

Sony, Samsung, Google and a few lesser known companies have all filed patents in the last couple of years in a race to be the first to bring the lenses to the market for consumer purchase. Each company seems to have focused on a different issue. Each one encompasses a unique feature, such as taking photos, augmented reality or addressing health concerns, while other features are ubiquitous to all the manufacturers’ lenses.

Sony was recently awarded a patent in April of 2016 for a smart contact lens that will take photos and videos of what the wearer is seeing. The lens can do most of what a camera can do. Just like a camera it is capable of autofocus, exposure adjustment and zooming. The patent lays out the lenses ability to calibrate the camera with a wearers blink. Want to take a photo? Just blink three times really fast. Want to take a video? Just squint really hard for three seconds. The contact also uses an electroluminescence display screen to playback recorded content. You can do all this without ever looking at your smartphone, but just by looking straight ahead. All of the registered content can then be wirelessly transferred to your smart phone or computer for later viewing.

Samsung was also given a patent in April 2016 in South Korea for its own smart contact lens. The Samsung lens will take photos and videos just like the Sony lens, however it will also have imbedded augmented reality. With a built in display that projects images directly into the wearers’ eye, the Samsung smart contact lenses will have the ability to superimpose computer generated images onto the real world, all while being less visible when worn. If you are curious what the restaurant across the street serves simply look at the front of the building and the menu will appear across your field of vision. Look down the street to see who has the best gas prices and little speech bubbles will pop out from the curb with the amount per gallon inside. Say you’re on a blind date and want to find out more about the person sitting across from you. You can check their Facebook page without ever having to leave the table or pull out your phone.  Imagine having the ability to read a foreign language without ever having taken classes, or being able to navigate a place you’ve never been to effortlessly. The applications for this are endless.

Google’s smart contact lens patent approval arrived a month later than Sony and Samsung in May 2016. Google being Google though, they are taking the smart contact lens road a little less traveled; the contact lenses will have to be surgically implanted in your head. Google has partnered with Novartis, the parent company of Alcon contact lenses, the company that used to be known as Cibavision, to develop a lens with flexible electronics and sensors thinner than a human hair that will help those suffering from diabetes. The embedded lenses will read chemicals in the tear fluid to determine if the wearers’ blood sugar levels have fallen to near fatal levels. Upon diagnosing the patient’s glucose condition the smart contact will then be able to administer the insulin itself, if needed. While it may seem a bit intrusive, this would be a great, pain-free alternative for diabetics who prick their fingers daily or who constantly wear a glucose monitor. This is excellent news for diabetics, but Google’s smart lenses could be used by anyone looking to maintain great energy levels or even stick to a healthy diet. In the long run Google is also looking to implement features that would be capable of correcting myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism as well as presbyopia eye conditions. This would make the need for wearing glasses and traditional contact lenses a thing of the past. The patent states that the smart lenses will either be solar powered or be charged by the movements of your eyes. Now that right there is just amazing!

One last company that is on the forefront of the smart lens bubble is Ocumetrics. While lesser known than the previous three tech giants, Ocumetrics may be the first company to roll out a smart lens for sale to the public. Designed by Dr. Garth Webb to enhance the vision of those that need it, the Ocumetrics Bionic Lens as they’re calling it, will not only give the user 20/20 vision, but could actually enhance that by up to three times – yup that’s right, a zoom lens! These lenses would need to be surgically inserted in an in and out eight minute operation. The result would be immediate vision correction. In addition to overcoming the list of ocular vision ailments, the patient would never have a chance of getting cataracts as the lenses would never wear away and the software could be updated wirelessly as needed. Trials need to be carried out first, but the tech could be ready to go in just a few years.

This is an amazing time we live in.

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Non-Prescription Colored Contact Lens Dangers

gross eyes

Those colored contact lenses you bought from your hairdresser might just cost you your eye sight. With San Diego Comic-Con having just passed and Halloween right around the corner, the sale of cosmetic, eye altering contact lenses is at a high. Cosmetic, fashion, costume or colored, the lenses go by many names. While it may seem cool to have zombie eyes, cat’s eyes or simply change your eye color to a different one, most people who consider purchasing these lenses don’t realize that lasting damage caused by poorly fitted lenses cause irreversible and lasting damage to the wearers eyes.

Cosmetic contact lenses, just like their uncolored counterparts, are medical devices that require a prescription by a licensed eye doctor and are regulated by the FDA. You might say to yourself, “I have perfect vision, so I don’t need an eye doctor to check my eyes”. Although you may have excellent vision, and may not need glasses or corrective eye wear, but you do not have the same size eyes as everyone else. Just like everyone has different shoe sizes and pant sizes, people have different size eyes too, and your lenses need to be fitted to match your eye type.  A 2010 study published in pediatrics indicated that roughly 13,500 emergency room cases each year are due to the wear of unregulated costume lenses in children and teens. Injuries can range from scratches and tears on your cornea (the soft skin layer over the iris, the part of the eye that gives it color), pink eye, decreased vision or even blindness. One study found that wearing unprescribed colored lenses increased the risk of keratitis (a potentially blinding infection that causes ulcers to form on your eyes), by more than 16 times when compared to people who wear regular fitted corrective lenses.

So why are shops that sell unprescribed cosmetic lenses still allowed to do so? These places are selling the contacts illegally and can face fines as high as $16,000 per violation. You may see these cosmetic lenses being sold all over by street vendors, beauty salons, flea markets, Halloween stores and gas stations. These places do not fit the contacts to your particular eye shape, nor do they provide you with proper instructions for the caring and cleaning of your lenses. The only places you should be buying your lenses from are licensed online retailers and licensed eye doctors. Purchasing them anywhere else without a prescription will only put you and your eyes at risk.

The correct way to go about purchasing colored contacts is to first visit your eye doctor. Get into the habit of seeing your eye doctor on a yearly basis. Tell them that you want to be fitted for contact lenses.  They will measure your eyes and assess how they respond to contact lens wear. Once this is done your doctor will give you a valid prescription that is specific to your eyes. You can use that prescription to purchase the cosmetic lenses from your eye doctor or from an authorized online retailer; which generally tend to be a lot less expensive. Make sure the online retailer requires you to have a valid prescription; otherwise you’ll be back in the same boat as you were buying them from the street vendor or gas station. Lastly follow your doctors handling instructions for cleaning, handling and wearing the lenses. Don’t leave the lenses in longer than prescribed and don’t forget to clean them regularly as this can result in eye infections and eye ailments as well. Be sure to schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor to ensure that the lenses are fitting properly. If you start to experience any discomfort, redness, soreness or vision loss contact your eye doctor immediately.

As cool as it may seem to make your eyes scary, bold or beautiful, it most certainly is not worth the risk. Your health is by far more important than saving a few dollars to look cool a few nights of the year. Take care of yourself and take care of your body, the consequences are just not worth it.

7 Helpful Tips to Prevent Dry Eyes

All contact lens wearers have experienced dry eyes at some point. The irritation, the burning and heavy squinting make getting through the day unbearable. Observe the situations you are in when this occurs, as a lot of the time dry eyes may be preventable.  Here are 7 helpful tips to avoid dry eye:

~Set your computer screen below your eye level:  When your screen is above your eye level you tend to open your eyes more to see the screen better. When your screen is lower you relax your eyes, which helps reduce the dehydration of the tears in your eyes.

~Be mindful of your surroundings: Whether you live in the mountains, in the desert or are catching the next flight home, the air in these and many other areas can be very dry. Try closing your eyes more often to decrease the amount of moisture loss in your eyes. You can also carry an extra bottle of solution to rewet your lenses if they are drying out.

~Try wearing a disposable moist contact lens: Theses lenses contain more water content than traditional lenses, so they provide longer lasting comfort throughout the day, and since they are disposable they require no maintenance. Just toss out the dry lenses and pop in a fresh pair. Moist contact lenses are also available for both astigmatic and multifocal wearers.

~Think about wearing sunglasses: Consider wearing sunglasses, even when you wouldn’t normally, if you find your eyes are drying out more often than you’d like. Blocking the suns scorching rays and the winds blustery gust will go a long way to keeping your eyes moist throughout the day.

~Avoiding smoke or smoking: Not only is smoking bad for your lungs, it is also extremely bad for your eyes. You may find that smoke causes your contact lenses to rest uncomfortably in your eyes, causing them to become red, scratchy and irritating. This is because smoke extracts moisture from the surrounding air, thus drying out your contacts and your eyes at the same time. Smoking also can cause harmful long term consequences to your eyes such as glaucoma, cataracts and even blindness.

~Prevent air blowing directly into your eyes:  Fans, air conditioners, car heaters, and hair dryers. Each of these, among many others, can dry your lenses and your eyes out in minutes making for a really unpleasant rest of your day.

~Use eye drops regularly:  If you have persistent dry eyes be sure to use rewetting drops even when you’re not dried out. This will keep you ahead of the game and avoid any unnecessary discomfort later. Consider using rewetting drops prior to removing your lenses. This will ensure that the lenses are well hydrated and therefore become easier and safer to remove.

(As always, consult your eye doctor for proper eye care and correct contact lens fitting.) Continue reading 7 Helpful Tips to Prevent Dry Eyes

Not the Smokey Eyes You’re Looking For

I quit smoking when I found out I was going to be a dad. This was the catalyst that made me want to change my life for the better. After twenty years of trying different ways to quit, it was the thought of not being with her that helped me quit. I thought of my life, her life, without me in it. I want to be there for her every moment I can, for as long as I can. Roughly a month or so before I found out she was going to be in my life, I started working at an online contact lens retailer, Contact Lens King. It was here that I learned about contact lenses, the eye care industry, and overall eye health. I knew smoking was bad for my lungs, my heart, and my overall long-term well-being; and I guess it just never crossed my mind, but I also learned just how bad smoking was for my eyes. Not only do I want to be alive with my daughter in the long term, I also want to be able to see her grow and become the amazing woman I know she will be.

Working in the contact lens industry I’ve read a lot of horror stories about people who don’t follow proper contact lens care directions and end up with gruesome results. Your eyes are the only organs that get their oxygen from their surroundings rather than from your body. When you smoke you pollute your environment and cause your eyes problems from the lack of oxygen. Every smoker has felt the sting of smoke in their eyes. When you wear contacts it compounds the inflammation, soreness, dry eyes and irritability. Plus when you smoke it not only leaves tar and nicotine on your fingers, but also on your contact lenses themselves causing a litany of issues which I will lay out below.

The CDC estimates the United States alone has roughly 480,000 deaths a year attributed to smoking. That’s half a million people that die each year from a preventable habit! The health risks associated with smoking are well known and numerous:  Lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, a reduction in my overall life expectancy are just several of the dozens of concerns detrimental to my long term liveliness. This number does not take into account those people who are still alive and suffering from the adverse effects of smoking.  More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. For every person who dies because of smoking another 30 live with a serious smoking related illness.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) starts as a loss of central vision and makes it harder to read or see fine details in things. Smoking increases the severity and triples the risk of this disease, which is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 65. There are two types of AMD, “dry” and “wet”, with dry being the most common. Dry AMD causes fatty deposits to form in the back of the eye behind your retina, with vision getting worse slowly over time. Wet AMD causes tiny blood vessels to leak or break open, which in turn causes scar tissue to develop. Wet AMD is less common, but more quickly to produce harmful vision results.

Glaucoma is the gradual breakdown of the optic nerve cells that sends visual information to your brain.  As the cells die, your vision slowly begins to deteriorate, usually starting with your peripheral vision. This is often not noticeable until a significant amount of nerve damage has occurred. Due to this, almost half the people who have glaucoma may not be aware they have it. There are two types of Glaucoma: Primary open-angle Glaucoma and acute angle closure Glaucoma. The former is the most common type, which by the time you are aware of it, can have already caused significant vision loss. The latter form of Glaucoma is less common, but can come on more rapidly due to increased pressure on the inside of the eye. Symptoms can include: eye pain, nausea, red eye, seeing colored rings around lights and blurry vision. Smoking can significantly increase the risk of developing open-angle Glaucoma, which can lead to blindness. Unfortunately, presently there is no cure for this horrible disease.

Smoking thins your blood, not allowing enough oxygen to flow to the parts of your body that need to breath; like your eyes. Smoking enhances your risks for developing diabetes and the potentially blinding complications that come with it; one of them being Diabetic Retinopathy. Diabetic Retinopathy causes tiny blood vessels in your eye to become blocked, leak or break down completely. When new blood vessels begin to grow they can cover your retina, which can cause extreme vision complications and even blindness. There are four stages of Diabetic Retinopathy: mild, moderate, severe non-proliferative Retinopathy and Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy; the last of which leads to permanent vision loss. People with all types of Diabetes are at risk for this additional complication. Roughly 40-45% of people with Diabetes have some stage of Diabetic Retinopathy, yet only half are even aware of it.

When you smoke it leaves a sticky brownish black residue on your fingers which you can wash off; imagine the gunk it is leaving on your eyes, this cannot be rinsed away.  This gunk over time accelerates the erosion of the lens in your eye, which can lead to Cataracts. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States, and smoking doubles your chances of getting them. Cataracts are a build-up of protein in the lens of the eye which causes cloudy or blurry vision. Generally cataracts take years to develop and can be undetectable in the early stages of growth. This is why cataracts for the most part start being noticeable in people age forty and older, although you can develop them when you are young or even be born with them. Symptoms may include double vision, cloudy, blurry vision, faded colors or a stark glare around light sources. Cataracts are estimated to affect roughly twenty million plus people in the United States over the age of forty; with this number set to double in the next twenty years. Strangely enough, out of this number, 61% of those affected by Cataracts are women. Cataracts can be classified by their location in the eye and length of time they have been present. There are a few types of cataracts: Subcapsular Cataracts develop in the back of the lens, Nuclear Cataracts develop in the center of the eye, and Cortical Cataracts form along the edges of the lens and point inward. The only solution to cure Cataracts is through surgery. This is an expensive and uncomfortable in and out procedure. Luckily for the majority of patients, the Cataracts don’t return after they’re removed.  Only in about 10% of patients does a film begin to develop over the lens again. Beyond smoking and aging other causes of Cataracts can include: Excessive alcohol consumption, overt exposure to the sun and other UV rays, Diabetes, certain medications and injury to the eye itself.

Smoking ruins lives. Not only does it affect you, but the lives of those around you and the lives of those you love. I love my daughter more than I’ve ever loved anything else in my life. I want to live for her as long as I can, see her grow and see her experience life. I can’t do that if smoking takes away my vision or worse yet my life. Whether it’s your eyes, your lungs, your heart or any other part of your body; smoking is just not worth it.