As the second most complex organ in the human body, treatment and care for our eyes continue to push medical innovations to new exciting realms; some which involve feats in microengineering that sound closer to science fiction than actual medical advancements.
Dr. Karl Bohringer, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, is working towards developing an ocular implant capable of monitoring intraocular pressures. These tiny sensors would be built-in to artificial lenses and implanted in the same way cataract surgery is performed. The perimeters of these ‘Smart Lenses’ are embedded with tiny antennas capable of monitoring and relaying information about the intraocular environment. Using radio frequency for power and data transfer, Smart Lens implants are designed to instantaneously alert patients about spikes in ocular pressure; changes which can easily go unnoticed until significant, irreversible optic nerve damage has occurs.
Though this lens is still in the developmental phase, it is an innovation that deserves our full attention. For those of you who are reliant on glaucoma drops, have experienced vision loss due to optic nerve damage, or are obligated to attend annual glaucoma checkups, these pressure monitoring sensors would allow patients to take a more active role in monitoring and managing their disease. If a patient could monitor their own ocular pressures, they could seek medical attention as soon as it is needed, or, conversely, save energy consumed by worrying about how the eyes are doing between doctor visits.
This lens represents advancements in healthcare technologies, as well as advancements in the relationship between patients and the role they play in managing their own health. This is definitely something to get excited about it.