Patience is not a virtue for those who have yet to receive a glaucoma screening. It has been estimated that 2.2 million Americans are currently living with glaucoma, but only half of those people actually know it. Glaucoma is an umbrella term for multiple conditions associated with optic nerve damage and changes to your visual field. It is the second leading cause for blindness in the world, and while science and medication can slow down symptoms, there is no known cure for the disease. Recent estimates have even suggested that 80 million people worldwide are expected to develop glaucoma by 2020.
While these statistics are alarming, current researchers are teaming up to develop a revolutionary contact lens that could help combat symptoms more effectively than previous treatment options. Scientists from the UCLA School of Dentistry are testing out state of the art contact lenses that are bound together with nanodiamonds and glaucoma fighting drugs that are released into the eye through a patient's tear production. Nanodiamonds are derived from conventional mining practices, and are shaped like tiny soccer balls five nanometers in diameter. When combined with timolol maleate – a common drug found in eye disease drops – the nanodiamonds provide a more durable form of contact lens that can fight glaucoma while still providing a comfortable fit.
Kangyi Zhang, co-author of the study and graduate student at the UCLA School of Dentistry, sees the potential contact lenses as a crucial step forward in ophthalmology.
"Delivering timolol through exposure to tears may prevent premature drug release when the contact lenses are in storage," Zhang issued in a press statement. "This may serve as a smarter route toward drug delivery from a contact lens."
The only concerns with the project revolve around the contact not being able to properly administer the correct dosage at a given time, resulting in an excess of glaucoma fighting drugs leaking out of the lens and not being delivered to the eye. Regardless, if put into production, the contact lens would be a major advancement in the fields of both glaucoma research and biology.
Detecting glaucoma before it's too late
It's important to get yourself tested for optical diseases before it is too late. Glaucoma screenings conducted by a certified eye doctor are covered under Medicare Part B if conducted only once per year. Symptoms of potential development include:
- Gradual loss of peripheral vision
- Eye pain that can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting
- Tunnel or blurred vision
- Halos surrounding lights
- Reddening of the eye
If you fear you may be at risk, take advantage of a glaucoma screening today, before it's too late.