For years, there have been sunglasses that can get darker or lighter depending on the UV radiation a wearer endures. Until now, however, that technology has been limited to standard eye glasses -- leaving contact lens wearers to squint or put on another pair of sunglasses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working to change that. The organization just gave its seal of approval to the first ever contact lenses that use photochromic technology.
A unique additive will automatically darken the lenses when they're exposed to bright light, the FDA explained in a statement. The lenses will clear up whenever they're back in normal or darker lighting conditions.
"This contact lens is the first of its kind to incorporate the same technology that is used in eyeglasses that automatically darken in the sun," said Malvina Eydelman. Eydelman serves as director of the division of ophthalmic, and ear, nose and throat devices at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
The FDA approved the technology after extensive trials and clinical studies. One study had 24 wearers use the contacts while driving in both daytime and nighttime settings. The FDA found that there were no problems with driving performance or issues with vision while wearing those contact lenses. In total, over 1,000 patients were involved in the various studies conducted by the FDA.
Light-adaptive contact lenses aren't for everyone
Like other prescriptions and medical technology, the lenses aren't for everyone. The FDA cautions that people with inflammation or frequent eye infections shouldn't wear the lenses. Anyone who suffers from certain eye diseases or long-standing eye injuries should also avoid them. Finally, people who have severe dry eye or frequent allergic reactions should note that their states could be worsened by wearing these lenses.
And, like most other contact lenses on the market, the FDA said wearers shouldn't sleep with the contact lenses in or expose them to water.
According to current plans, these photochromic lenses should be available for those needing them by the first half of 2019.
Over the last several years, more than 40 million Americans have reported using contact lenses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the U.S. alone, 42 percent of the population aged 12 to 54 are nearsighted, according to the National Eye Institute, and 10 percent of all Americans are farsighted.