A contact lens developed by engineers at the University of Liverpool to help improve the treatment of glaucoma has been found to reliably track pressure changes in the eye.
The contact lens is able to continuously measure fluid pressure in the eye known as intraocular pressure (IOP). When elevated, IOP is a cause of glaucoma which can lead to loss of vision.
The device’s first clinical study was completed at St Paul’s Eye Unit in the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. The trial involved 12 volunteers who wore the new contact lens device for more than an hour while under constant clinical observation.
Results from the trial showed that the lens was able to measures changes in the IOP with minimal impact and little discomfort to the patient.
Glaucoma patients usually have their IOP measured twice a year which can be unreliable as IOP is easily affected by psychological and environmental factors such as stress or sleeping.
The device is made of a soft silicone hydrogel material to ensure it is comfortable to wear. It contains a pressure sensor which detects changes in IOP continuously over a period of up to 24 hours. Changes are transmitted wirelessly to a portable external controller which collects the data and gives clinicians data to assist with glaucoma treatment.
The device was developed in conjunction with engineers from contact lens manufacturer, Ultravision CLPL, St Pauls Eye Unit, Liverpool and Moorfields Eye Hospital, London. The development team is now looking towards refining the device to take the next steps towards commercialisation.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness, affecting half a million people in the UK and costing the NHS more than £1 billion a year.
Ahmed Elsheikh, professor of Biomaterial Mechanics in the University’s School of Engineering, said: “The results of this study are very positive and show that the device is comfortable for people to wear and gives good measurements of the IOP. This device has the potential to provide millions of sufferers of glaucoma with much needed information which will ensure that they are being treated correctly, and that their good vision can be maintained and damage kept to a minimum.”