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The History Of Contact Lenses

Nov 20, 2007
Many men from Leonardo da Vinci in the year 1508 to a German glassblower in 1887 have toyed with the idea of adjusting vision using everything from water on the eyes to some sort of "animal jelly" and finally, glass. The first contact lenses in Germany in 1888 were made of blown glass and were very large and thick. The glass used was brown in color and covered the entire eye surface. They were so uncomfortable that they could only be worn for very short periods of time throughout the day.

In the 1930's, a Plexiglas contact lens was created. Plexiglas is a compound substance that combines plastic and glass. Contact lenses were now much lighter and easier to deal with. But they were still made to cover almost the entire eyeball and therefore remained fairly uncomfortable and could only be worn for a short period of time because the contact prevented the cornea from getting oxygen.

In 1949, a lens was finally developed that only covered the cornea, or the colored part of the eye. These contact lenses were much more comfortable and as a result, patients were able to keep them in all day. These lenses were popular until the early 1970's. They were the first contact lenses in history to be mass-produced. Pieces of Plexiglas could be shaped on a lathe according to the specifications requested by the ordering ophthalmologist.

There were still some adverse reactions to the Plexiglas contact lenses. Plexiglas does not allow air to pass through it and therefore, patients who were wearing these contact lenses for extended periods of time were suffering from lack of oxygen to their eyes. To counteract this, new polymers were created to use in the manufacturing of contact lenses in the early 1980's. The word polymer literally means, "many parts". And that is exactly what a polymer is made of, many parts. Polymers are plastics that are formed using large molecules that do not bunch together tightly, leaving molecular spaces where air can pass through the plastic.

Now that we had polymer plastics to work with, many different types of rigid oxygen permeable contact lenses were introduced throughout the 1980's and 1990's. But it wasn't until 1971 when the US Food and Drug Administration approved the very first soft contact lens. Once they were approved, they outsold rigid or hard contact lenses by a wide margin. This has lead to a constant stream of newer and more improved soft contact lenses every year. In 1999, the first silicon contact lens was approved, which offered even better oxygen permeability and could be prescribed for overnight wear.

Today's Rigid Gas Permeable contact lenses have improved to the point that in some ways surpass soft lenses. Although, rigid lenses take a couple of weeks to adapt to, they have been found to improve vision better than soft lenses and eliminate the problem of suffering from dry eyes.

The history of today's contact lenses began more than a century ago, while the theory was being discussed 500 years ago. These medical devices have helped millions of people around the world see their world that much better.
About the Author
For more information on and where online to purchase contact lenses visit http://www.contactlensesguideonline.com a popular contact lens resource site. mark(at)contactlensesguideonline.com
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