New Contact Lenses Reduce Itchy Eyes from Allergies

A visit to the optometrist is not just about refractive correction — and for many, ocular discomfort due to allergies is also a big concern. Allergic conjunctivitis (AC) is a common form of eye irritation due to the body’s response to certain allergens on the optic surface. Grasses, trees and family pets can contribute to AC, which becomes more difficult to treat if the individual uses contact lenses. 

Although many topical treatments are currently on the market, Johnson & Johnson Vision (Jacksonville, Florida, USA) has introduced an exciting new product that may offset the woes brought on by AC: the world’s first and only drug-releasing combination contact lens for vision correction and allergic eye itch: ACUVUE® Theravision™ with Ketotifen. This new product uses the already trusted ACUVUE technology with antihistamines in order to combat eye irritation. 

The Science Behind the Lens

Ocular itch due to allergies is one of the most common ailments contact users face. A 2019 study* described the most common cause of AC is the presence of allergens. 

The authors said: “The itch response is due to the conjunctival mast-cell release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators.” Many topical treatments have been developed in order to treat this problem such as antihistamines including olopatadine, bepotastine, or ketotifen. The study described these treatments as “second-generation antihistamines are characterized by a rapid, prolonged suppression of allergen-associated itch responses.” In order to combat itchy eyes, many patients choose to use topical treatments that block overactive inflammatory responses. 

However, topical treatments are far from perfect. Often contact lenses need to be removed to apply topical drops and there are concerns regarding the impact they might have on the durability of the contact lens. Luckily,  we now have a product that will make itchy eye relief much easier. 

A New Lens Arrives

In March 2021, Johnson & Johnson announced approval from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) for these novel lenses. This was followed by an April 2021 announcement that the company received approval from Health Canada for these first-ever daily disposable contact lenses. The Theravision contact lenses incorporate the antihistamine ketotifen into their design, which offers long-lasting comfort for wearers.

And this product is supported by research:* “By combining a contact lens and a drug such as ketotifen, allergy sufferers who wear lenses can receive reliable daily allergy relief that lasts for as long as they typically wear the [contact lenses], while avoiding potential adverse effects of preservatives commonly found in topical ocular preparations.”  

There is no evidence from the study that the incorporation of the drug into the lens solution has any structural, optical or refractive effect on the lenses. Thus, current contact users can look forward to a reduction in itchy eyes without compromising optical acuity. 

Future of Care

Johnson & Johnson Vision has been dedicated to improving the eye health of people all over the world for many years. And the incorporation of the ketotifen antihistamine into Theravision contact lenses is revolutionary. Should more countries around the world continue to approve the lens, it could become one of the more exciting products created by the company — especially if you ask contact wearers with allergies-related itchy eyes. Indeed, both eye care professionals and their patients will benefit … and can look forward to a more comfortable future in vision.

*Pall B, Gomes P, Yi F, Torkildsen G. Management of Ocular Allergy Itch With an Antihistamine-Releasing Contact Lens. Cornea. 2019;38(6):713-717.

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