Posted by: juliegriffey | January 31, 2011

Modern Contact Lens History

contact lens careOver the past 40 years, contact lens technology has radically evolved. It was only 40 years ago that Bausch & Lomb introduced the first soft contact lens. While these first soft contact lenses were much more comfortable than their hard counterparts, they were difficult to handle and didn’t offer the best optical quality.  However, as technology improved, so did the lenses and by 1978, a soft contact lens was developed that could help people with astigmatism.

In 1979, a new type of contact lens, the rigid gas permeable (RGP) lens became commercially available.  RGP lenses offered the ease of handling and optical clarity of the hard lenses, but because they allowed oxygen to reach the cornea (as soft lenses do), they were more comfortable to wear.

In the early 1980’s colored contacts in both soft and RGP varieties made their debut.  Consumers could now change their eye color to a rainbow of unnatural shades on a whim.

Extended wear contacts made their debut in the 1980s as well, with extended wear soft contact lenses arriving in 1983 and extended use RGP lenses in 1986.  Extended wear contacts were initially approved for 30 days of continuous wear but the FDA later changed that to just 7 days due to health concerns.

In 1999 – bifocal contact lenses were introduced.  Consumers already wearing contacts to correct near-sightedness would not have to add reading glasses to their regimen. Look up for clear distance vision and down for reading vision.

The latest major innovation in contact lenses was the FDA’s approval of extended wear contact lenses in 2001.  This new approval allows contacts to be worn for a continuous period of 30 days.

By the year 2000, 136 million adults ( nearly  2/3 of the adult population) wore contact lenses, an slightly over half of the 136 million were women (53%). 83% of contact lens sales were of soft lenses, 16% gas permeable hard lenses, and the remaining 2% is regular hard lenses.

What has happened since 2000?  Has the availability of lasik surgery diminished the demand for contact lenses? We’ll explore that topic next week.,tll:2000,tlh:2049&prmd=ivns&ei=OAdDTan1OIaBlAeKy_DnDw&ved=0CGYQyQEoCw


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