Light-adapting contact lenses might be coming soon

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Many of our patients enjoy the convenience of contact lenses because they can wear non-prescription sunglasses over them when they're out on the beach.

What if your contact lenses also worked as sunglasses?

Johnson and Johnson, the manufacturer of the popular Acuvue brand contact lenses, has received FDA clearance for a contact lens with "Transitions Light Intelligent Technology."

These contact lenses will be the first ones to automatically darken with sun exposure. The lenses have a photochromic additive that adapts to sunlight. The darkening is dependent on the amount of UV exposure similar to Transitions glasses lenses.

The downside is your car's windshield blocks a significant amount of UV light, thus traditional Transitions glasses and the new contacts will not turn dark while you're driving. Newer Transitions XTRActive glasses lenses do get dark while driving, but do not get perfectly clear indoors.

I'm not sure exactly when these contacts will be commercially available, but the rumor is not for at least a year. Even then, they likely will not be available in all prescription types.

Contact lens manufacturers usually start new lenses with limited rollouts in the most common prescriptions.

In an age where contact lenses are being more and more deregulated due to internet sales, medical advances continually remind us that a contact lens is a medical device. There are lenses in development that measure blood sugar or deliver medication by slow-release.

We might eventually be able to treat glaucoma by wearing a contact lens rather than having to remember eye drops.

Speaking of a contact lens as a medical device, here again is my PSA about any contact lens: It is a luxury that can be costly if you abuse it! It only takes one night of sleeping in lenses with a tiny bacteria under your lens to form a corneal ulcer.

I like to tell my patients that it's just a dark, moist environment for things to grow.

Luckily, corneal ulcers most commonly form in the peripheral cornea. An ulcer that happens to form in the central cornea can permanently destroy your vision, and this does happen.

Please clean, replace and take out your contact lenses as advised by your eye care provider.

Caroline Bundrick, O.D. is an optometrist practicing at Darling Eye Center, with offices in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island.

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