By Alexa Kaczka
A new type of contact lens could be used to help relive some of the pain and discomfort felt by people who undergo laser eye surgery.
Their report appears in ACS's journal Langmuir and reveals that scientists have developed new contact lenses that could provide a continuous supply of anaesthetic medication to the eyes of patients who undergo laser eye surgery.
This advance could relieve patients of the burden of repeatedly placing drops of medicine into their eyes every few hours for several days, explained study author Anuj Chauhan.
He noted that one million laser eye correction procedures are performed each year in the US alone, with Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) one type of procedure.
However, a downside to PRK is that there is a longer period of pain after surgery, which requires patients to place drops of several medications, including anaesthetics, into their eyes every few hours, which can interfere with daily life and increase the risk of drug overdose.
PRK patients also receive a special "bandage contact lens" after surgery to help the outer layer of the eye heal.
In the new study, researchers tested whether anaesthetics loaded onto this type of lens could release the drugs over time automatically, and they found that adding vitamin E to the lenses extended the time of release of three commonly used anaesthetics from just under two hours to up to an entire day, or even a few days in some cases.
According to the specialists, the vitamin E acts as a "barrier", keeping the anaesthetics on the eye, right where they are needed.
The researchers say that, in the future, these lenses could serve as bandage contact lenses after PRK surgery, while also delivering necessary pain medications.
They are now set to look into the feasibility of this procedure being rolled out on a wide scale.
by Alexa Kaczka