Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 28, 2011

New Contact Lenses May Measure Glucose Levels, Check Glaucoma Status


I wear contact lenses. I’m near-sighted, and with age, now also far-sighted, too! I don’t know what I would do without my contact lenses. Call it vanity. But now your very tears might prevent painful finger pricks if you’re a diabetic, and transmit data wirelessly about your glucose levels, while other lenses might provide data about the effectiveness of glaucoma treatments, thanks to engineers who are combining microelectronics into contact lenses, according to a story at qmed.com about an article in New Scientist.

Building electronic sensors and transmitters into contact lenses, researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle have invented a lens with a glucose monitor, for sugar in tears, which transmits data wirelessly, according to the story. And in Lausanne, Switzerland, Sensimed AG has designed “strain gauges” into lenses that also send data wirelessly to indicate how well you glaucoma treatment is working. The best news of all? You only have to wear this particular device 24 hours once or twice a year.

To produce such lenses, researchers are pulling together “transparent, eye-friendly materials with microelectronics,” according to Duncan Graham-Rowe.

The New Scientis article points out that “scientists in Seattle, for example, built on their previous development of an LED-equipped contact lens to create a glucose monitor-on-a-lens device for diabetics,” according to the story at qmed.com. Using tiny electrodes and a computer chip, the lens can monitor glucose levels in tears to avoid painful finger thumb pricks. t

And the Swiss company Sensimed recently began marketing the first “smart contact lens,” which relies on highly sensitive platinum strain gauges embedded in the lens to improve glaucoma treatment, according to the article. Data are also recorded and transmitted wirelessly with this device, the qmed.com story notes. The unusual device is to be worn for 24 hours only once or twice a year to “help determine medication schedules based on recorded peaks in eye pressure,” according to the article at qmed.com.

The wide introduction of these lenses into the marketplace may take some time, according to experts, because it’s not yet known what kind of vision they might give, or what they might do the eye long-term, according to the qmed.com article.


Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves






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