A new breed of smart lens is offering hope to those suffering from glaucoma and looking for improved treatments and monitoring.

The first contact lens designed specifically for assisting with the identification of the disease is already on the market. The Triggerfish is designed to help manage glaucoma treatment. By measuring the changes in the curve of the eye caused by fluid pressure, the lens can help doctors determine the best treatment of the disease. All the electronics necessary to handle output and communication are built into the smart lens.

The Triggerfish has one major drawback. It uses a short range induction loop to process and send information. The tiny antenna required on the contact lens means that the external antenna must be taped to the eye socket in order to receive transmission. Thankfully, the Triggerfish is only meant to be worn in 24-hour periods every 6 months.

Another smart lens under development is designed to treat disease rather than monitor it and is designed for extended wear. This new smart lens releases a specified type and amount of drugs into the eyes over a specific amount of time. Using a permeable donut-shaped sack embedded on the lens, the drug leeches through slowly. At this time, it can be used to administer anything from pain killers to antibiotics.

Scientists are working to develop a drug-releasing contact lens that has sensors on it that will allow the smart lens to respond to a particular stimulus, releasing the drug into the eyes only when triggered, rather than a slow leech.

Other smart lens technology is being developed that can read alcohol levels, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels and then send a warning into the wearer’s line of sight. As this new technology becomes more available, the possibilities may be limitless as to what can be treated – or monitored.