New contact lenses are designed to help eyes stick to screens – Quartz

For a growing number of millennials, a routine visit to the optometrist can lead to a surprising suggestion: Get reading glasses.

It’s not just because millennials are approaching middle age, the oldest among them being 40 years old. It is also likely the result of the fact that they spent much of their lives staring at screens, especially after 18 months of the pandemic when there was not much else to do.

“We have certainly seen changes in the eyes of patients,” says Kurt Moody, director of professional education in North America at J&J Vision. “We spend so much time on digital devices – tablets, computers, phones – and it takes a toll on the eyes. “

Fortunately, eye care companies are releasing a slew of new products designed for a generation of contact wearers who don’t want to abandon them as they approach middle age.

How screens affect our eyes

Using the screen is nothing new, of course. But for most people, the time spent staring at screens has increased during the pandemic. “More and more people are entering optometric practices complaining of discomfort associated with the use of screens,” says Michele Andrews, vice president of professional and government affairs, Americas at CooperVision.

There are several different causes for this discomfort. One is that their eyes are too dry. Staring at screens causes people to blink less frequently or halfway so they don’t miss a thing, which is not good for the eyes. Without oil released during eye blinking, tears keeping eyes moist become unstable and evaporate, which can cause many types of discomfort that people often mistake for eye strain, says spokesperson Stéphanie Marioneaux. clinic of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Another cause can be problems concentrating the eye. “When people get into their 40s – it happens to everyone – the lens inside your eye becomes less flexible … it can’t change shape as quickly as when you’re, say, 20 years old,” explains Andrews. This can make it harder for our eyes to make that same accommodation that they so easily did, a condition called presbyopia. Presbyopia can set in before age 40 (called premature presbyopia) due to other medical conditions or medications, but some studies indicate that a lot of time spent working closely, including looking at a computer, may play a role.

In children, too much screen time has been associated with progressive myopia. Nearsightedness is a condition when the eyeball grows differently from the space it is allotted, causing things in the distance to appear blurry. The condition progresses over time; if it progresses to what is called high myopia, patients are at a higher risk of eye problems that threaten vision, such as retinal detachments, glaucoma, or cataracts. Nearsightedness is increasingly common – studies show that myopia could affect half of the world’s population by 2050.

What we can do about it

For almost all of these problems, simple preventative measures can make a big difference. For dry eyes, remembering to blink can often help. “Now, because people spend their lives in front of screens, everyone has become very good at suppressing blink response,” says Marioneaux. To help stave off nearsightedness, hold materials at least 14 inches away – “at a 90-degree angle from the elbow and hand, keep it that distance,” Marioneaux adds – and pause the screen every minute. the 20 minutes to look at 20 feet one way. Children are encouraged to spend at least two hours a day outdoors (studies show this can help slow the progression of myopia), limit screen time, and see their eye doctor for advice. ‘other treatment options.

Eye care companies have developed products for people who need help anyway. Most of them have focused on contact lenses, which is what many millennials are used to. “We have an aging population who grew up with contact lenses, who want to continue wearing lenses and go into presbyopia as easily as possible,” Andrews said. “Aging has an emotional component, we want our vision to be the same as before. “

Patients who needed help concentrating at different distances (for example, were nearsighted but also developed presbyopia) were once relegated to bifocal glasses or more homogeneous progressive lenses. Contacts, however, were often elusive. “Multifocal lenses have been around for 20 or 25 years, but their use has been limited because they don’t work very well and they are difficult to prescribe,” says Moody of J&J. His company has spent five years focusing on fitting multifocal contacts by measuring patient pupil size (which affects their ability to adjust) at different ages. The company has 183 different adjustments.

For patients who do not yet have presbyopia but are suffering from digital eye strain, CooperVision has developed a new type of lens called Biofinity Energys specifically designed for the use of digital devices. When they went on sale in 2016, adoption was slow, Andrews says. “What we learned in 2016 is that patients did not understand their discomfort when using digital devices with their eyes and did not report it to a doctor. They would feel tired at the end of the day and say, ‘Well, it was a long day. in an increase in prescriptions, she adds.

Bausch + Lomb also creates multifocal contacts to work better for presbyopic patients. It establishes contacts designed to help patients see at near, intermediate and far distances. He even makes multifocal lenses for people with astigma, an imperfection in the curvature of the eye that can further distort vision.

They’re also making contacts to resolve dry eye issues, either due to excessive screen time or just age. Daily lenses are generally considered best for people with dry eyes. J&J has developed a silicone hydrogen for its Acuvue Oasys contacts which the company claims keeps the eyes moist. Bausch + Lomb has a similar product called INFUSE; he plans to launch a multifocal lens with this material next year.

What happens after

Over time, these companies will continue to create new products and materials to meet the changing needs of patients. Nearsightedness is likely to play a big role in this regard – some experts predict that 5 billion people worldwide will be affected by myopia by 2050, which would place even greater demands on contacts to be able to meet heavy prescriptions and medication. astigmatism. In 2019, CooperVision’s MiSight 1 Day Contacts became the first such contact to receive Food and Drug Administration approval to slow the progression of myopia in children ages 8 to 12. A little prevention and even better treatment options can help people see clearly and comfortably at all stages of life.

“I think what we’re all aiming for is a product where every need is met,” says Andrews. “Patients want exceptional vision and comfort at a great price. They want it to be easy to put on and take off. It is the ideal contact lens. And in many ways, she adds, that has always been the challenge.

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