Vitamin E in Contact Lenses Could Treat Glaucoma

April 12, 2010


Glaucoma is second only to cataracts as the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the world as it affects almost 67 million people. Eye drops that relieve the abnormal build-up of pressure inside the eye that occurs in glaucoma, are a mainstay treatment but now there may be an alternative.

Research carried out at the University of Florida reports that if vitamin E is added into special medicated contact lenses it can keep the glaucoma medicine near the eye. This means it can more effectively treat the condition, up to nearly 100 times longer than possible with current commercial lenses.

Anuj Chauhan, Ph.D., who headed the research team, explained: “The problem is within about two to five minutes of putting drops in the eye, tears carry the drug away and it doesn’t reach the targeted tissue. Much of the medicine gets absorbed into the bloodstream, which carries it throughout the body where it could cause side effects. Only about one to five percent of drugs in eye drops actually reach the cornea of the eye.”

Chauhan and his colleagues have developed a new extended-release delivery approach by incorporating vitamin E into contact lenses. The vitamin E molecules form a kind of transport barrier that slows down the release of the glaucoma medication from the lens into the eye. The drug molecules can’t go through the vitamin E but must go around it and so get diverted and must find a longer path into the bloodstream. This increases the duration of the drug release from the lenses and so stays in the tears far longer than the 2-5 minutes with eye drops, leading to more effective therapy.

Don’t – please don’t – try adding vitamin E to your own contact lenses as this is very much in the development stage, but it is hoped clinical trials of the new lenses could begin within a year to 2 years.


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