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FDA Approves First Contact Lenses to Treat Allergies and Itchy Eyes

For people who wear contacts, a new medicated lens could replace the need for eye drops.

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Itching, watering and downright irritated eyes can be caused by allergies, but a new kind of contact lens may offer some relief. Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that the US Food and Drug Administration approved Acuvue Theravision with Ketotifen -- the first lenses to deliver medication directly to the eye. 

Ketotifen is an antihistamine that's commonly used to treat itchy eyes caused by allergic conjunctivitis, but contact wearers may be especially vulnerable to pollen or other irritants that can aggravate the eyes and lead to hours of discomfort. 

The new prescription contacts, which are daily and meant to be thrown away after one use, combine the vision-correcting power of regular contact lenses with the itch relief of eye drops that can last up to 12 hours, their makers say. They may not be suitable for some people with astigmatism, and aren't for people with red eye.

Read more: Best Place to Buy Contacts Online for 2022

The contacts work by delivering 50% of the medication in the first 15 minutes after the user puts them in, according to Acuvue's website, and each lens will continuously deliver the medication over the next five hours, effective up to 12 hours (with vision correction lasting as long as you have them in). 

In results from two clinical trials published in the journal Cornea, the medicated contacts produced a "statistically and clinically significant" difference in allergy symptoms in both trials.

Possible side effects of Acuvue Theravision with Ketotifen, according to Johnson & Johnson, include eye irritation and eye pain, occurring in less than 2% of treated eyes.

The Acuvue lenses are the world's first drug-eluting contact lenses on the market, Johnson & Johnson said. Development is also underway on a similar technology that can treat glaucoma via contact lenses. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.