Your eyes aren't just the windows to your soul. They could also be the window to your health, if new contact lens technology pans out.
Researchers are working on smart contact lenses that could monitor a ton of different aspects of health, from diabetes to heart disease. Other high-tech lenses could also give wearers advanced vision capabilities and let them see augmented-reality screens.
Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first bionic eye. A device housed on a pair of glasses transmits images to an artificial implant in the eye that stimulates electrodes on the surface of the person's retina. Israeli professor Zeev Zalevsky has already made a bionic contact lens version that doesn't require surgery (although it's not yet available for commercial use like the bionic eye).
"A lot of people think of contact lenses purely as a cosmetic device," says Thomas Quinn, chair of the contact lens and cornea section of the American Optometric Association. But Quinn and others are predicting that these smart contacts — a combination of contact lenses, miniaturized electronics, and sensors — will have huge potential as medical tools far beyond vision correction.It's In The Eyes
Humans produce tears for practical reasons — like flushing irritants such as dust or pollen out of the eye — and also in response to emotional stimuli. And while it may be easy to dismiss the droplets running down your face as just water, tears are complex. They contain a wide variety of chemicals that could tell a doctor about the health of your entire system.
These tears could replace the blood samples that doctors turn to when diagnosing and managing conditions like diabetes and heart failure. This could be especially meaningful, since going to the doctor's office to get blood drawn is time-intensive and the samples often need to be sent to a lab to be analyzed.
Some researchers are designing special high-tech contact lenses that could continuously monitor these health indicators, among others. The ultimate idea would be for the health information collected by the contact lens to be wirelessly communicated to both you and your doctor. Below are some of the applications in the works.Contacts To Monitor Glucose
A prototype for a glucose-sensing contact lens is in the works, thanks to a partnership recently announced between Google and Novartis. These contacts would be aimed at helping diabetics continuously monitor their blood glucose without having to prick their finger and test their blood throughout the day.