The history of contact lenses spans over five hundred years. Contact lenses initially started as an idea Leonardo da Vinci had in the early 1500s, when he drew sketches of an object that could be placed on the eye to alter its optics. However, it was not until the late 1800s that the first contact lenses were created - out of glass!
These early contact lenses covered the entire eye, were rather uncomfortable, and could only be worn for a couple hours. In 1948, a California optician named Kevin Tuohy created the first PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) hard contact lens, which allowed contact lenses to be worn comfortably for multiple hours and officially put the idea of a mass marketing contact lenses “on-the-map.”
However the most notable revolution in the history of contact lenses was the invention of the first hydrogel soft contact lens material by Czech chemists Otto Wichterle and Drahoslav Lim in 1959. If you wear a soft contact lens today, you have these two to thank! Ultimately, the first marketed soft contact lens came in 1971 - the time of the launch of the first FDA-approved soft contact lenses in the United States — Bausch + Lomb's "SofLens.”
Currently, daily soft contact lenses have been all the rage, in fact, in our practice they account for nearly 80% of our contact lens wearing patients. So why is this case and why should you consider daily contact lenses?
By far, the best aspect of wearing daily contact lenses from an optometrist’s point of view are the health benefits bestowed. Unlike monthly/bi-weekly contact lenses, daily contact lenses possess a far less likely chance of developing a serious eye infection (such as a corneal ulcer) since a fresh pair is used every day. Monthly/bi-weekly contacts hold a higher chance of this happening since they are saved over a period of time and could possibly be slept in.
Patients have almost universally stated that daily contact lenses feel more comfortable on the eye and can be worn longer throughout the day than their monthly/bi-weekly counterparts. Once again, part of this is using a fresh lens every day, however another aspect of this is the advanced lens wetting technology and oxygen permeability.
Being able to take a contact lens out and simply throw it away is much more convenient than going through a step-by-step lens care and cleaning cycle at the end of the day. Wearing daily contact lenses simply reduces the time spent on contacts whether it be putting them or taking them off - it’s as simple as that.
But what about excessive waste from using new lenses every day?
This is a common question I get from patients, and a very valid one. There is quite a bit of waste that goes into daily contact lenses. However, here are a couple things to consider. 1) If you are using monthly/bi-weekly contacts, you must use bottles of solution and contact lens cases, which equate to quite a bit of waste as well, 2) Contact lens waste can be recycled. Simply bring old contact lens blister packs to our office and we will recycle them to help our environment.
Surely the cost for dailies must be astronomical compared to monthly/bi-weekly contacts?
Not necessarily! While having a fresh pair of contacts every day does have a higher sticker price on paper, the cost of daily contact lenses are offset by a few things. First, with daily contact lenses, there is no longer a need to buy costly bottles of contact lens solution. Additionally, daily contact lenses, if purchased in a practice like ours, come with great mail-in rebates and prices that are competitive with online retailers.
If you are interested in daily contact lenses, give our office a call. We are happy to book you for an appointment and see if you are a candidate for the latest and greatest in contact lenses!
-Dr. Aaron Neufeld
Dr. Aaron Neufeld is the Chief Optometrist at Los Altos Optometric Group and primary author and editor of The EYE Digest.
To contact him with questions or make an appointment call: (650) 948-3700 or send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org