The history of contact lenses
The first contact lens concept appeared in a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci in 1508.1 Almost 400 years later, the first contact lens was born. It was glass and covered the entire surface of the eye.1
A more comfortable plastic lens was introduced in 1939, but it still covered the entire surface of the eye. Contact lenses didn’t shrink until 1948, when they were scaled down to cover only the cornea.1 Finally, soft contact lenses as we know them entered the scene in 1971 when the FDA approved Soflens, the first mass-produced soft contact lens in the United States.
“It started what is now a more than $ 15 billion industry,” said George Grobe, B + L vice president for research and development, in a statement. “It was a very exciting development for patients as well as practitioners as it increased the access and availability of vision correction.
Additional stages of contact lenses in the United States include2:
• 1979: Launch of rigid gas permeable lenses (RGP)
• 1981: Launch of soft extended wear lenses
• 1982: Launch of flexible bifocal lenses
• 1987: Launch of disposable lenses
• 1994: Launch of disposable toric lenses
• 1996: Launch of daily consumables
• 1999: Launch of SiHy lenses
• 2002: Night orthokeratology approved by the FDA; daily disposable toric launch
• 2004: Launch of SiHy toric lenses
• 2006: Launch of SiHy multifocal lenses
• 2011: introduction of daily disposable water gradient products
• 2019: Monthly launch of the SiHy multifocal toric lens; FDA Approved Myopia Control Soft Lens
Since their inception, soft contact lenses have undergone formula innovations to meet modern demands, the most recent of which is the added stress of gazing on digital screens, Grobe says.
About half of the 45 million contact lens wearers in the United States have symptoms of dry contact lenses.3-5 Several products on the market fight dry eyes, including artificial tears, punctual plugs and intense pulsed light therapy (IPL).
B + L recently introduced a new contact lens called Infuse to combat dry eyes resulting from increased digital screen time. The daily disposable silicone hydrogel retains 96% of its moisture over 16 hours of use and features next-generation SiHy daily disposable lens material (kalifilcon A) and ProBalance technology that work together to help maintain homeostasis of the ocular surface, according to the company.6
1. A brief history of contact lenses. GP contact lenses. August 2015. Accessed May 4, 2021. https://www.contactlenses.org/timeline.htm
2. Heiting G. When were contact lenses invented? Everything about the vision. Updated March 2021. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://www.allaboutvision.com/contacts/faq/when-invented.htm
3. Ramamoorthy P, Sinnott LT and Nichols JJ. Treatment, materials, care and patient related factors in dry eye contact lens. Optom Screw Sci. 2008; 85 (8): 764-772. doi: 10.1097 / OPX.0b013e318181a91f
4. Care of contact lenses. American Association of Optometry. Accessed May 4, 2021. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/contact-lenses/facts-and-stats
5. Highlights on contact lenses. Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention. Accessed May 4, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/fast-facts.html#:~:text=An%20estimated%2045%20million%20people,is%2031%20years%20old%202
6. Bausch + Lomb launches the innovative Bausch + Lomb Infuse daily disposable contact lenses made of silicone hydrogel (SiHy). Health Bausch. August 17, 2020. Accessed April 26, 2021. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/bausch–lomb-launches-innovative-bausch–lomb-infuse-silicone-hydrogel-sihy-daily-disposable – contact-lenses-301112825.html