3 Cutting-Edge Eye Lenses Designed to Help Improve How You See
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or the 2.2 billion people around the world whose sight is impaired, vision-correcting technology does more than just allow them to see—it helps them make sense of and connect with the world around them.
Indeed, sight is arguably our most valued sense, and a recent global survey by Johnson & Johnson found that more than two-thirds of people recognize that healthy vision improves their overall quality of life.
That's why researchers and scientists at Johnson & Johnson Vision have been dedicated to innovating in the field of vision care technology for more than 30 years—including introducing the world's first disposable soft contact lens in 1988.
And that was just the beginning.
Since then, the company has introduced such innovations as contact lenses that darken when exposed to light, treatments for dry eye and LASIK advances. Now, Johnson & Johnson Vision is aiming to further revolutionize the way people see, with exciting advances planned for this year and beyond that can help address seasonal allergy symptoms, improve cataract surgery outcomes and more.
For Cataract Awareness Month, we spoke to company experts to learn more about some of these groundbreaking innovations with the potential to improve sight—and well-being—for people around the world.
Implantable Lens Technology to Help Improve the Way Patients See After Cataract Surgery
Every year, millions of people undergo cataract surgery. Cataracts, an age-related condition in which the normally crystal-clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy, can make the world look as if you’re viewing it from behind a dull, dirty window. Patients may also become sensitive to light or have trouble with glare or halo effects.
During cataract surgery, the clouded lens is replaced with something called an artificial intraocular lens (IOL), which is implanted into the eye and remains there permanently. Just like glasses or contact lenses, IOLs can also improve your vision and correct common sight impairments such as presbyopia, myopia and astigmatism.
“Monofocal IOLs—which are IOLs that have one point of focus and are used in over 80% of cataract surgeries—are designed to allow people to see clearly at certain distances,” says , Global Head of Research and Development, Johnson & Johnson Vision.
Monofocals are popular because they are affordable and simple, Song explains. “They help the patient achieve distance vision, and patients can use glasses or contact lenses for close vision,” she adds. However, monofocals can make it difficult for patients to engage in activities that require intermediate vision, like cooking or working on a computer, without the use of glasses or contact lenses.
The shift to digital platforms has created a rapid increase in vision demands. You need an intermediate range of vision for a tablet, you need near vision for a smartphone and you still need far vision for things like driving.ShareDid you like reading this story? Click the heart to show your love.
Over the past few years that's become a bigger problem than ever, thanks to the widespread use of digital devices like smartphones and tablets. Surveys have shown that, among people between the ages of 55 to 64, about 85% use a mobile phone, and close to 60% use a tablet.
“The shift to digital platforms has created a rapid increase in vision demands. You need an intermediate range of vision for a tablet, you need near vision for a smartphone and you still need far vision for things like driving,” Song explains. “You also need to be able to see in all kinds of light conditions, whether you’re outside on a bright day or reading a menu in a dimly lit restaurant.”
To meet this range of vision needs, Johnson & Johnson has developed its most advanced IOL using its TECNIS® platform, a proprietary combination of materials and design for IOLs that was pioneered 20 years ago. The TECNIS® Synergy™ is a presbyopia-correcting IOL (PCIOL) that combines the best of extended depth-of-focus and multifocal technologies to deliver the widest range of continuous vision with the best near vision among leading PCIOLs (based on comparison and clinical studies) without the visual gaps caused by existing multifocal technology.
The lenses also incorporate violet light-filtering technology to reduce glare or halos for tasks like night driving, compared to IOLs of similar range. “This broad range of continuous focus is really the breakthrough aspect,” Song explains.
Highly Personalized Lenses That Help Provide Clear Vision as You Age
A decade ago, Johnson & Johnson Vision researchers took on a tricky challenge in contact lens design: Design a multifocal lens—which is made with different lens powers, targeting vision at varying distances—that allows wearers to see clearly in the entire continuum, from close vision out to infinity.
, Director of North America Professional Education, Johnson & Johnson Vision, led the group in charge of the project. “We wanted to create a lens that offered slightly more near vision than distance vision, because, based on a lot of consumer work even 10 years ago, we realized people spend so much time up close on a digital device,” he says.
Moody and the optical design team quickly realized that it was only possible to optimize near vision for one pupil size—but as a practicing optometrist for 22 years before joining Johnson & Johnson Vision, Moody knew that patients have a range of pupil sizes that can affect the optical performance of a lens.
To develop the knowledge base that would allow his team to optimize a design for different-sized pupils, the company launched the largest pupil study done to date. The study, published in 2016 in the journal Optometry and Vision Science, provided groundbreaking data that allowed scientists to better understand the correlation between pupil size, age and vision impairment.
“As you get older, your pupils become smaller. And most importantly, we found a direct correlation to pupil size based on your degree of nearsightedness and farsightedness,” Moody says. “The more farsighted you are, the smaller your pupil, and the more nearsighted you are, the larger your pupil. In fact, the difference in pupil size between the most farsighted and nearsighted people was actually 24 percent, which is quite significant when you’re talking about something as small as a pupil.”
There are so many patients who are wearing our bi-weekly disposable Acuvue® Oasys contact lens who are becoming presbyopic as they age and now need a pupil optimized design. There's a huge unmet need in this market for this technology.ShareDid you like reading this story? Click the heart to show your love.
This data set gave Moody and his team the tools they needed to create a unique, pupil-optimized design for each of the company’s 183 prescriptions offered.
In March 2021, the company launched the Acuvue® Oasys Multifocal with Pupil Optimized Design, combining the pupil-optimizing platform with the company’s Acuvue® Oasys material, made from senofilcon A, known for its high performance when it comes to comfort and vision correction.
"There are so many patients who are wearing our bi-weekly disposable Acuvue® Oasys contact lens who are becoming presbyopic as they age and now need a pupil optimized design," Moody says. "There's a huge unmet need in this market for this technology."
The Pupil Optimized Design technology uses a center-near approach, in which the near vision power is in the center of the lens, and the distance vision power is in the periphery of the lens. This design thus works in harmony with our natural eye because “when you look at something up close, your pupil gets smaller, and when you look into the distance, your pupil dilates,” Moody explains.
To ensure that the complex optical design remained intact as the lens wraps around the surface of the eye, the researchers created what they called the "hybrid back curve" on the back surface of the lens. This design is very similar to the curvature of the cornea. “It minimizes any distortion on the front surface of the lens so the sophisticated optics continue to perform,” he says.
The patient benefit is twofold: “One, it lets the doctor dial in the most effective prescription much faster. There’s a lot less trial and error involved,” Moody says. The second benefit, he explains, is that as wearers develop age-related presbyopia they will continue to get consistently clear vision through their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.
Contacts That Provide Vision Correction and Help to Relieve Itchy Allergy Eyes
For contact lens wearers who also suffer from itchy eyes, it seems like a no-brainer: Why not create a lens that can help you see and also deliver antihistamine medication directly where you need it?
It's something that Song had always wanted herself.
“This type of product seems so intuitive,” she says. “I can’t wear my contacts during allergy season because I’m constantly rubbing my eyes. I know from experience that it can be really disruptive to your life.”
Yet while the idea may look simple on paper, there were countless issues to consider in the design and manufacturing—something that Johnson & Johnson Vision researchers encountered when they set off to create such a product 15 years ago. Among them: how to get the medication to infuse into the lens and then later release into the eye, all without compromising the material’s comfort or the effectiveness of the lenses for vision correction.
With an eye drop, you’re tipping your head back and sometimes the drop bounces off your lashes or runs down the side of your face when you blink, or maybe you accidentally squirt two drops instead of one. With these lenses, you don’t have to worry about whether you got enough or too much.ShareDid you like reading this story? Click the heart to show your love.
It took company scientists over a decade to perfect the formula, and the resulting product, Acuvue® Theravision™ with Ketotifen contact lenses—which are approved and launched in Canada and Japan—are the world’s first and only drug-releasing contact lenses for vision correction and allergic eye itch.
The lenses include allergy medication and aim to change the way we think about how contact lens wearers treat itchy allergy eyes. Because the contact lens sits directly on the surface of the eye, and due to the unique chemistry between its material and ketotifen, delivering the antihistamine this way actually enhances the drug’s bioavailability, or the degree to which it is absorbed into the body, compared to standard delivery through eye drops.
“As the antihistamine is released from the contact lens, it can be contained in the film between the back of the lens and the surface of the eye where it’s absorbed,” says, Director of Global Clinical Science in Vision Care, Johnson & Johnson Vision. That contributes to the quick onset and long duration of symptom relief that the lenses provide: Studies show that people who wear the lenses will feel relief in just minutes, and the benefits last for up to 12 hours. Putting the medication in a contact lens has the benefit of also ensuring dosing is consistent every time.
“With an eye drop, you’re tipping your head back and sometimes the drop bounces off your lashes or runs down the side of your face when you blink, or maybe you accidentally squirt two drops instead of one,” Pall says. “With these lenses, you don’t have to worry about whether you got enough or too much. It’s one less thing you have to think about.”
Learn more about Acuvue Theravision with Ketotifen, including the product's important safety information.