Contact lenses are one of the most ingenious devices created in the last 100 years. The legend goes that there was Russian soldier wearing glasses who got punched in the face by a fellow soldier, after the event, he said he could see better in one eye or so the legend goes. One could say that a fragment of the soldier’s glasses got lodged in his eye enabling it to see well.
But the history of contact lenses go back to the time of Da Vinci in the Renaissance period. It consisted of immersing the face into a bowl of water to decrease the refractive power of the eye. He even suggested wearing a strange water filled device over the eye. This was the earliest note of a contact lens being proposed but were highly impractical at the time.
Some glassblowers were able to create the first contact lenses. These were the hard contact lenses that were highly irritating because one, they counted as foreign objects and two they oxygen impermeable such that there was a risk of causing ischemia to the eye by depriving it of much needed oxygen. Up until the 20th century, contact lenses could not be worn for more than half a day. As advantageous it was since precipitates on prescription glasses were of no cause for concern and increased peripheral vision was a big plus, the next big improvement in contact lenses wouldn’t be available up until the 1950’s where Czech chemists Otto Wichterle and Drahosav Lim pioneered the use of Hydrophilic Gels for biological use. Biological here meant for use in in close association with living tissue.
Contact lenses developed after where able to allow oxygen to cross the barrier and provide nourishment to the cornea by simple diffusion. This meant that contact lenses could be worn longer and that thinner, higher water content contact lenses would be developed in the nearby future. Contact lenses provide a lot of advantages over prescription glasses. Aesthetically, it’s quite refreshing to see someone whom you are used to seeing wearing glasses get a fresh clean look. Contact lenses can also have different colors for use in movies or plain simple vanity. You can look better at the depth of eyes. Better peripheral vision allows you to see more of the environment than what glasses would, excellent for activities outside such as sports or hiking trips.
Contact lenses also allow the wearer to wear goggles, sunglasses or other wearables without having to impair their vision. Some eye conditions can also be treated better with contact lenses such as aniseikonia or different image perceptions in the eyes and keratoconus which is thinning of the cornea. It is expected that as the general world population increases, a large portion of which would carry individuals with much needed corrective vision. The industry for making contact lenses is expected to grow with these factors in mind.
However, with all these advantages, we also have to consider the disadvantages. Contact lenses, no matter how high in water content or oxygen permeable are still considered as foreign objects. Hence, the body will still mount an inflammatory response even if very insidious. Some people are enticed to wear their contact lenses overnight which is a big no-no. Expect to have sore, dry eyes upon waking up in the morning if you didn’t remove the lens the night before.
Another thing about contact lenses is that they can be facilitators for infection. If you haven’t washed your hands properly before applying them, you could introduce bacteria in your eyes minus the protective blink reflex as contact lenses reduce this protective reflex. A destructive infection of the eye can ensue and may even result into blindness. Contact lenses, particularly soft contact lenses are also known to be very delicate such that great care must be taken not to accidentally destroy by involuntary actions such as rubbing the eyes or putting the contact lenses into the container and twisting the cap with the lens still at the border of the container.
All of these advantages and disadvantages have been discussed, so why not give them a try? Who know you might actually discover a whole new world for yourself.