The history of contact lenses is cooler than you think

As common as contact lenses are, there are several little-known facts about the ocular devices that are somewhat shocking to learn. For instance, did you know that the first iteration of contact lenses involved someone wearing a bowl of water on their head?!

To celebrate Contact Lens Safety Month, we’ve compiled some neat information about these critical vision correction tools that anyone would find compelling. Read on to learn more fun facts, and important tips for keeping contacts clean.

The history of contact lenses

While contact lenses might seem like a fairly modern phenomenon, they actually date back several centuries. It all started in 1508, when Italian scientist and artist, Leonardo da Vinci, first surmised that dunking one’s head in a bowl of water could change their vision. His hypothesis proved right.

Da Vinci was clearly onto something, and he began experimenting. He crafted a glass lens with a funnel which he poured water into, though he quickly learned the contraption was cumbersome and impractical.

Still, scholars and inventors who came after him saw what he was aiming to do, and tried to progress his mission further. In 1636, French scientist René Descartes sifted through his predecessors observations, and decided to test a new contraption. He filled a glass tube with liquid, and placed it directly over the cornea. That’s precisely how “contact lens” got its name—because the tube literally came in contact with the eye.

Although Descartes made progress on da Vinci’s work and proved it could successfully enhance vision, it wasn’t a solid solution, considering humans can’t blink with a glass tube on their cornea.

Then, there was a lul in contact lens research. In fact, about 200 years went by before another scientist took a stab at creating some form of contact lens. In 1801, English scientist Thomas Young stepped onto the scene.

Building off of Descartes’ invention, Young produced the first pair of contact lenses. He minimized the size of the glass tube considerably, and used wax to adhere the lenses to the eyeballs. Indeed, believe it or not, Young glued glass to his eye—which, for obvious reasons, turned out to be a big no-no.

So Young’s invention was also a flop, but it still symbolized strides forward in the realm of contact lens creation. In 1845, English physicist John Herschel picked up where Young left off, and conjured up the concept of molding the cornea to create vision correcting lenses. Sadly, he lacked the necessary tools to bring his idea to life, but as technology advanced, his vision (pun intended) ultimately became a reality.

In the 1880s, several scientists began developing cutting edge glass contact lenses, which were thin enough to allow for blinking.

Although the history is somewhat murky, Dr. Adolf Fick, a Swiss doctor—who wrote a famed paper called “A Contact Spectacle”—is often credited with inventing contact lenses. as we know them today. He was the first person to fit contact lenses, and he initially started experimenting on rabbits, then later himself and a small sample of brave volunteers.

Although Fick successfully managed to avoid abrasions (he used a special solution on the glass), the contact lenses themselves were too cumbersome to be practical, and could only be worn for a short period of time before becoming potentially dangerous.

Eventually, by the late 1970s, soft contact lenses began to evolve, and the notion of disposable lenses materialized as well. Silicone hydrogel contact lenses arrived in 1998, and the rest is history. Today, more than 3.5 million Canadians—and countless others around the world—depend on contact lenses every day for vision correction.

Hard versus soft contact lenses

Of course, as technology advanced, so, too, did the capacity for contact lenses to correct various vision problems—including nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia.

Although soft contact lenses are generally preferred as they are more comfortable to wear, hard contacts can sometimes be a better solution for vision correction. In fact, research has shown that children who wear hard contact lenses have a higher likelihood of slowing the progression of nearsightedness compared with those who wear soft contact lenses, and there are now soft lenses available for myopia control.

While hard contacts are made of gas-permeable plastic that makes them feel stiff, soft contacts are composed of either hydrogel material or a silicone hydrogel combination, which makes them more flexible. There are certainly pros and cons to both. Hard contacts, for instance, are more durable, cost effective and longer lasting. They are also known to promote sharper vision, and can be great for people who suffer from dry eyes. In some cases, they can actually work better than glasses for people with ocular diseases such as keratoconus. That said, they require a more rigorous cleaning routine, as they are more prone to collecting dust and debris.

Soft contact lenses, on the other hand, are easier to mold to the eye, and are often considered more comfortable. There is less maintenance involved with daily disposable soft lenses, and they are easier for first-time wearers to adjust to. Still, they must be replaced frequently, and they are less durable than harder lenses.

Choosing hard versus soft contact lenses will depend heavily on an individual’s lifestyle and their specific vision needs. It’s best to consult with your eye doctor about which type of contact lens is right for you.

Contacts for allergies

Did you know that there are contact lenses specifically designed to combat allergies? Last year, Johnson & Johnson Vision unveiled the first-ever drug-releasing contact lens that simultaneously corrects vision and treats allergic eye itch.

ACUVUE® Theravision™ with Ketotifen is a product that the FYidoctors family adores, as its one-of-a-kind formula can offer relief to allergy sufferers who prefer wearing contact lenses over glasses.

As science and technology continues to progress, we’re confident that more contact lens innovation is in store.

Things not to do with contacts

Contact lenses should be handled with care. After all, they go directly into your eye. Regardless of what type of lenses you wear, here are 10 things you should never do as a contact lens wearer:

1. Sleep while wearing contact lenses.
2. Rub your eyes.
3. Use dirty hands to handle your contact lenses.
4. Leave specs of makeup on your contact lenses.
5. Get water on your lenses (in other words, avoid showering with contact lenses, and don’t wear them in a pool, bath or hot tub). Water can carry bacteria that can cling to your contacts and lead to infections, which is also why you should never store your lenses in tap water.
6. Go close to heat sources, such as fire, which can dry out contact lenses.
7. Reuse old contact lens solution.
8. Forget to clean your contact lenses and case if you don’t use dailies.
9. Wear them when your eyes are irritated.
10. Overwear them – your eyes need time to rest. Contacts shouldn’t be worn for more than 16 hours per day.

How to clean them properly

Caring for and cleaning your contacts is key to avoiding infections and other problems.
The best way to sanitize your contacts depends a lot on the type you wear, but here are a few basic tips for contact lens hygiene:

1. Always wash your hands before inserting and removing contact lenses.
2. Avoid using oil-based lotions or soaps before handling your contact lenses.
3. Always ensure you are using fresh solution to store your lenses.
4. Never use water or saliva to disinfect your contact lenses.
5. Replace your contact lens case every three months

Find the right contact lenses for you

Contact lenses aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution for vision correction. Depending on your individual eye needs, certain contact lenses will be more suitable than others, and your eye doctor will make sure you have the best possible pair for you.

Book a comprehensive eye exam today at an FYidoctors clinic near you , and learn more about contact lens options that will meet your vision needs. Plus, the best brands of contact lens solutions are always available at FYidoctors. It’s also a good time to check out our current contact lens offers for some eye-catching deals.