New Vitamin Loaded Contact Lens May Help Treat Glaucoma

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Researchers with the University of Florida in Gainesville have developed a new approach to treating glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness in the world and affecting about 4 million Americans. Even with proper treatment, approximately 10% of people with glaucoma will still experience loss of vision.

In a presentation to attendees at the 239th National Annual Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Anuj Chauhan PhD and research team created a specially medicated contact lens that is loaded with vitamin E which helps to keep glaucoma medicine near the eye almost 100 times longer than currently possible.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that is primarily caused by an increase in intraocular pressure that damages the optic nerve. There is no cure, however medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. Eye drops that relieve the build-up of pressure are the standard medical treatment, however, within just a few minutes of putting the drops into the eye, the active drug is carried away by tears and does not reach the targeted tissue, says Chauhan.

“Much of the medicine gets absorbed into the bloodstream, which carries it through the body where it could cause side effects. Only about one to five percent of drugs in eye drops actually reach the cornea of the eye,” Chauhan said.

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The vitamin E molecules form a cluster or aggregate that creates a “transport barrier” that slow down the elusion of the glaucoma medication from the lens into the eye. Chauhan calls the vitamin structures “nano-bricks” which cause the molecules of the medicine to be diverted and therefore extending the duration of the drug release from the contact lenses up to 100 times longer than most commercial lenses.

Vitamin E is also beneficial for its anti-oxidant properties. Its presence in the lens can block UV radiation and prevent further damage to the eye. It is transparent, and does not affect the ability to see while wearing the lenses.

Chauhan believes that the contact lenses, which could begin clinical trials within one to two years, may also be used for other eye conditions such as cataract and dry eye.

The Glaucoma Research Foundation stresses although the risk increases with age, anyone can get glaucoma. Approximately 1 out of every 10,000 babies in the United States are born with the condition. African-Americans are particularly susceptible at a younger age – glaucoma is six to eight times more common in blacks and are 14 to 17 times more likely to go blind.

Early diagnosis is essential to preserve vision. Early in the disease, glaucoma has no symptoms, and it is estimated that about half of those with glaucoma do not know they have it.

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