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How Has the Contact Lens Industry Evolved in Recent Years

Modern contact lenses have gone through tremendous changes since they were first invented in 1888. Although eyeglasses remain the go-to option for vision correction

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How Has the Contact Lens Industry Evolved in Recent Years

Modern contact lenses have gone through tremendous changes since they were first invented in 1888. Although eyeglasses remain the go-to option for vision correction, there’s no denying that contacts are steadily but surely growing in popularity.

This continued shift can be chalked up to the ongoing scientific discoveries. By bringing together biology, chemistry and microelectronics, big name manufacturers in the field of vision continue to improve eyesight and wellbeing by revolutionizing the way people see.

In this article, we give you a closer look at the major milestones that are making headlines in the contact lens space. But let’s start with a brief summary of how the idea of the contact lens became a reality.

Building on da Vinci’s Sketches- 500+ Years On

Contact lens may seem like a fairly new phenomenon to most people. But the idea of altering the human eye to improve vision can be traced back to the famous Italian architect and inventor- Leonardo da Vinci.

In 1508, da Vinci wrote the “Codex of the Eye.” In this manuscript, the inventor suggested that submerging one’s head in water with their eyes open could help correct certain vision problems. Later on, da Vinci came up with a glass lens with a funnel to put water into it.

Da Vinci’s invention was flagged for being impractical and way ahead of its time. However, it’s generally accepted that his original principals paved the way for the birth of the modern contact lens 380 years later.

The Journey to the Modern Contact Lens

Glass Scleral Contact Lens

The first contact lens that was closer to today’s product was invented by a German glassblower- F.A Muller in 1887. Muller’s lens was made of glass and used to cover the entire eye surface, including the sclera. These scleral lenses were not meant to correct any vision problems, but to protect sick eyes.

But the invention of a vision-correcting lens would come just a year later. In 1888, Paris optician Edouard Kalt and Swiss physician Adolf E. Fick designed the first glass contact lens aimed at correcting vision problems. While they were a major breakthrough, these contact glasses were large and heavy and severely cut oxygen supply to the eye.

Owing to their design, scleral lenses were uncomfortable and would only be worn for a few hours. Thus, the search for lightweight, comfortable and prolonged-use lenses continued.

Plastic Vision

In 1936, New York optometrist William Feinbroom introduced the first scleral lenses made from plastic and glass materials.

Twelve years later in 1948, California optician Tony Tuohy killed two birds with one stone when he introduced the world’s first all-plastic, corneal lenses made from polymethyl methacrylate (PPMA). Although they were not gas permeable, these lenses allowed oxygenated tears to slide under and reach the cornea. These corneal lenses could be worn for up to 16 hours continuously.

The Soft Lens is Born

The introduction of hydrogel lenses in 1960 is one of the biggest achievements ever made in the search for comfortable vision-correcting lenses.

These lenses were created by Czech chemists Wichterle and Lim and revolutionized the contact’s industry in two ways. First, hydrogel is considerably softer than PPMA. But perhaps more important than this was that these contacts were hydrophilic (water-living).

This invention saw SofLens by Bausch + Lomb’s become the first FDA-approved hydrogel soft contact lenses in 1971.

Fifty years down the line, soft contact lenses are still the most popular. Most of the ongoing improvements today are aimed at making the soft contact lens even more comfortable to wear.

Here’s a breakdown of the most recent improvements and technologies in the contact lens industry in the USA.

Johnson and Johnson’s Blink Stabilized

Blink Stabilized is one of the latest designs that has been added into Acuvue contacts. This is a unique design on the shape of the lens that helps realign and keep the contact stable with every blink. Blink Stabilized design also makes the process of wearing the contact lens less stressful.  When you insert the lens inside the eye, the eyelid will help position it in just a few blinks.

Alcon’s SmartShield Technology

In January 2014, Alcon released Air Optix HydraGlyde multifocal contact lenses. These monthly replacement contacts ushered in two new technologies into the industry: Smartshield and HydraGlyde Moisture Matrix.

Smartshield is a patented ultra-thin layer covering the surface layer of the contact to help resist deposit buildup and improve wettability.

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