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The Evolution of Contacts

If you are one of the millions of people who wear contact lenses every day, you probably have not given much thought about the evolution of contacts. We know why they are worn since they provide an alternative to glasses. It works for those who prefer the convenience of improved vision without having a device sitting on their noses all day long.

But contacts have come a long way, baby! They have an interesting past and some exciting and surprising future contact lensinnovations on the way. Let’s see how well you understand those tiny clear discs you put into your eyes and explore how contacts will be used in the future.

History of Contacts

You might be surprised to learn that Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first to conceive of contact lenses back in the 16th century. Those early ideas were just a dream until an English astronomer suggested that a mold of the eye could correct vision.

In the 19th century there is debate about who actually came up with the idea of a glass contact lens, but it covered the entire eye including the white part called the sclera. Thus this lens was known as the sclera lens, but they were too uncomfortable to become successful or popular.

It was not until the 1940s that any real improvements were made. An optician created the first modern gas permeable contact lens. They were made from a non-porous plastic and only sat on the cornea making them smaller and more comfortable.

As fitting expertise improved and manufacturing techniques progressed, contact lenses become more and more popular in the 1950s and 1960s.

From there other significant improvements followed:

  • 1979 first rigid GP contact lens
  •  1981 first extended wear contacts
  •  1982 soft bifocals
  •  1987 disposables
  •  1995 daily disposables

The number of people wearing contact lenses exploded once the comfort level improved. Now these silicon hydrogel lenses allow for oxygen and hydration and can be worn overnight. Some are continuous wear and others are disposable.

The Amazing Future of Contacts: Smart Lenses

Google and other large companies like Novartis are teaming up to take contact lenses to the next level creating “smart lenses.” Most of these futuristic improvements are still in the preliminary stages, but corporate giants would not be investing money if they did not expect the evolution of contacts to continue.

Imagine this:

  •  A contact lens that can provide biomarkers for certain cancers which would be especially useful for those patients in remission
  •  A contact lens that delivers your drugs: glaucoma patients would receive a slow steady stream of medications rather than a short concentrated dose
  •  A lens that will measure the intra-ocular pressure (IOP) in glaucoma patients
  • Glucose management for diabetes patients since the glucose level will be monitored through tears rather than blood
  •  A lens which can actually repair a damaged cornea and restore vision without an invasive procedure
  • A telescope inside a contact lens for patients with low vision or macular degeneration
  •  The ability to capture images and displays while still viewing normal surroundings (yes, similar to Mission Impossible and Terminator movies)
  •  Those with automatic focus built in to aid patients with reading issues like presbyopia
  •  A lens with a camera built in which would capture images, send them to your smart phone and convert to audible warnings for low vision or blind patients

There are dreamers and scientists all working to make these ideas a reality. Of course it won’t happen in the blink of an eye, but many of these innovations may become available in our lifetime.

If you or someone you know has questions about the benefits of today’s contact lenses, OptiVision Eye Care is here to help.