New contact lenses designed specifically for older adults might help them re-gain eyesight lost from the leading cause of age-related blindness with little visible evidence that they’re wearing cyborg-like technology.

A team of researchers from the United States and Switzerland, led by University of California-San Diego Professor Joseph Ford, created telescopic contact lenses to take away the blurry eyesight that comes with macular degeneration, according to the research’s press release.

The current method of treating such vision issues from macular degeneration include using a telescopic eyeglasses. Essentially, this involves putting a telescopic or telemicroscopic on the outside of a pair of glasses, which can look bulky.

Alternatively, some patients might be candidates for a surgically implanted telescope that is less noticeable.

But as co-author Eric Tremblay of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland said, according to press materials, for such a visual aid to be widely accepted, “it needs to be highly convenient and unobtrusive.”

He called contact lenses an “attractive compromise” between the telescopes on glasses and more invasive surgically implanted micro-telescopes.

The new contact lenses can be used for both magnified vision up to 2.8 times or unmagnified. To allow the wearer to switch back and forth between the two views, the researchers borrowed the idea of liquid crystal glasses used when viewing 3D TVs:

These glasses selectively block either the magnifying portion of the contact lens or its unmagnified center. The liquid crystals in the glasses electrically change the orientation of polarized light, allowing light with one orientation or the other to pass through the glasses to the contact lens.

telescopic contact lens

Images captured through the contact lens and mechanical model eye. c) Outdoor image taken with model eye alone. d) Outdoor image taken with model eye and contact lens. This image shows why each of the two magnification states (normal and 2.8x) should be used one at a time: here, neither section of the lens is being blocked by the glasses, and the result is an image with greatly reduced contrast. e) Outdoor image taken with just the magnified outer portion of the contact lens (2.8x). (Image and caption: Optics Express, Optical Society)

Currently, the contact lenses are in their concept phase, with researchers hoping for refinements to include gas-permeable materials for more comfort and corrections for unusual colors generated by the lenses’ design.

“In the future, it will hopefully be possible to go after the core of the problem with effective treatments or retinal prosthetics,” Tremblay said in a statement. “The ideal is really for magnifiers to become unnecessary. Until we get there, however, contact lenses may provide a way to make AMD a little less debilitating.”

The research on this technology was published in the open-access journal Optics Express.

Featured image via Shutterstock.com.

(H/T: Engadget)