MAR 28, 2016 11:03 AM PDT

How Can We Make Contact Lenses More Comfortable?

WRITTEN BY: Cassidy Reich
As a long-time contact lens wearer, I am intimately familiar with the discomfort of dry contact lenses. You would think that with all of the scientific and medical advancements in recent years, we would have a solution to this problem. Thankfully, Gerald Fuller, a chemical engineer at Stanford, and a postdoc in his lab, Saad Bhamla, have designed a machine to better study why contacts lead to dry eyes and how we can better design them to be more comfortable.

Your eyes are protected from the air by an aqueous tear film layer with a lipid layer on top. The lipid layer prevents the tear film layer from evaporating and also provides mechanical strength to the tear film layer. Eyes, at 95 degrees Fahrenheit, are usually warmer than the surrounding air, so they are constantly heating up the aqueous layer and losing moisture. The lipid layer slows down that process. Bhamla and Fuller suspected that contact lenses disrupt the protective lipid layer and lead to accelerated moisture loss and dryness of the eye. But in order to study and test this idea, they had to build a machine.
 
i-DDrOP

The Interfacial Dewetting and Drainage Optical Platform (i-DDrOP) recreates a tear film on the surface of a contact lens. It is amazing that it has taken this long to build a machine to facilitate research in this field. Prior research on contact lenses consisted of dipping a lens in water and holding it up to see if the tear film forms. With i-DDrOP, scientists are able to more quantitatively study the dynamics of the tear film, the lipid layer, and contact lenses.
 

In the photo above, taken from one of Bhamla’s papers from July 2015, you can see how a comfortable contact looks on the left, and how a dry, uncomfortable contact looks on the right. Hopefully, with the use of i-DDrOP, they will be able to re-engineer contact lenses to stay comfortable after hours of wear. This may not seem like groundbreaking, paradigm-shifting research, but advancements in the field of contact lens comfort will impact millions of lives. About 30 million Americans use contact lenses, but roughly half of them switch back to glasses due to the discomfort of contacts. As I sit here writing this article wearing glasses because my contacts were bothering me, I am looking forward to a day when ocular discomfort is no longer an issue.

Sources: EurekAlert, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, and Investigative Opthamology and Visual Science
About the Author
  • Cassidy is a curious person, and her curiosity has led her to pursue a PhD in Pharmacology at the New York University Sackler Institute of Biomedical Sciences. She likes to talk about science way too much, so now she's going to try writing about it.
You May Also Like
DEC 24, 2020
Cardiology
The Detrimental Health Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods
DEC 24, 2020
The Detrimental Health Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods
Prepared and highly processed foods have become very common, and they've been linked to negative health effects like obe ...
DEC 28, 2020
Immunology
What Happens When Your Immune System Works Against You?!
DEC 28, 2020
What Happens When Your Immune System Works Against You?!
Our immune system is our army against any molecule that wants to invade our bodies like viruses, bacteria, and cancer. I ...
DEC 28, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Anti-Diarrhea Drug Kills Aggressive Brain Cancer Cells
DEC 28, 2020
Anti-Diarrhea Drug Kills Aggressive Brain Cancer Cells
Glioblastoma is a very aggressive and lethal form of brain cancer that responds poorly to chemotherapy in children and a ...
JAN 01, 2021
Microbiology
A New Type of Antibiotics Help the Immune System Fight Pathogens
JAN 01, 2021
A New Type of Antibiotics Help the Immune System Fight Pathogens
Reporting in Nature, scientists have identified a new group of compounds that may help us get out of the antibiotic-resi ...
JAN 12, 2021
Immunology
Killer Control: Engineered Stem Cells Dodge Transplant Rejection
JAN 12, 2021
Killer Control: Engineered Stem Cells Dodge Transplant Rejection
The first organ transplant—performed over 60 years ago—was a success because the donor and recipient were id ...
JAN 19, 2021
Cardiology
Risk of Atrial Fibrillation Raised by Daily Alcoholic Drink
JAN 19, 2021
Risk of Atrial Fibrillation Raised by Daily Alcoholic Drink
Some studies have suggested that moderate alcohol intake is linked to a lower risk of death from heart disease. But that ...
Loading Comments...