What is a Contact Lens?
Quite simply, a contact lens is a lens placed directly on the eyeball.
Lenses are consdered as 'medical devices' and can be used to correct vision, for
cosmetic purposes and for therapeutic purposes.
People choose to wear contact lenses for many reasons (see our comparison with
glasses below) but mainly it's for aesthetic reasons - as people look more natural without
History of Contact Lenses
Amazingly, it is thought that Leonardo da Vinci sketched the first ideas for contact lenses
in 1508. However it was more than 300 years later before contact lenses were actually
fabricated and worn on the eye.
In the very early years contact lenses were made from glass. In 1827, English astronomer
Sir John Herschel came up with the idea of making a mould of the wearer's eyes so
contact lenses could be made to conform perfectly to the eye's surface.
In 1887 a German glassblower used Herschel's ideas to create the first known glass
Shortly after, Swiss physician A.E. Fick and Paris Optician Edouard Kalt are credited with
fitting the first glass contact lenses to correct nearsightedness and farsightedness.
These heavy glass lenses covered the entire front surface of the eye and could be
tolerated for only a few hours of wear.
In 1936, New York Optometrist William Feinbloom introduced the use of plastic in
contact lens manufacturing. Feinbloom's lenses had a central portion made of glass
that covered the cornea and a peripheral band of plastic that covered the sclera.
In 1948, California optician Kevin Tuohy began manufacturing contact lenses made
completely of plastic. His lenses were smaller in diameter than Feinbloom's lenses, but
they still covered the entire cornea.
Later the same year, Oregon optometrist George Butterfield improved Tuohy's lens
design, adding flatter peripheral curves to the lens so it more closely matched the shape
of the cornea and would not pop off so easily.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, hard plastic lenses were made smaller and thinner,
evolving into hard lens designs that are still used today.
However these lenses remained quite difficult for many people to wear comfortably.
So in the late 1950s a Czechoslovakian chemist began to experiment with methods to
produce contact lenses using a soft, water-absorbing plastic called hydroxyethyl
In 1961 Dr. Wichterle created the prototype of a spin-casting machine and used it to
produce the world's first soft contact lenses.
Dr. Wichterle's work later resulted in the introduction of the first commercially available
soft contact lenses by Bausch & Lomb in 1971. This enabled the market to grow
considerably as these lenses were thinner and more comfortable than hard contact
Recent years have seen the introduction of frequent replacement lenses, tinted
disposable soft contact lenses, one-day disposables, disposable lenses using
ultra-violet absorber, bifocal soft contact lenses, toric lenses, extended wear lenses
and silicone hydrogel lenses. No doubt the development will continue in the
coming years ..
Benefits of Contact Lenses
The past few years have seen tremendous developments in lens materials and design to
bring even greater benefits and comfort to contact lens wearers.
Today almost all eyesight problems can be corrected with contact lenses. Despite
advances in spectacle technology and the advent of surgical techniques such as
laser refractive surgery, contact lenses provide many advantages and are a very
successful form of vision correction.
New manufacturing technology has also made contact lenses more affordable than
ever before and brought extra comfort and healthy options.
Now more than 3.5 million people in the UK wear contact lenses and the number of
wearers has more than doubled in recent years
Some benefits of contact lenses are:
- They are simple and convenient to use and expand lifestyle choices
- They offer natural all-round vision and enhance your appearance
- They have many advantages for sport and leisure activities
- They can be worn every day, part-time or just for going out and special occasions
- Vision with contact lenses can be as good, or better than with spectacles
- They offer a safe, effective, stable, and reversible alternative to refractive surgery
- They can correct almost all eyesight problems and are suitable for people of all ages
- Adaptation to contact lenses is rapid and trouble-free
- The latest contact lenses and solutions provide excellent comfort and eye health
- Some eye conditions can only be corrected with contact lenses
Contact Lenses Versus Glasses
|Glasses|| ||Contact Lenses|
The distance between your eye and the lens sometimes creates distortion.
Worn right on the eye, for more natural vision.
Poor peripheral (side) vision.
Your entire field of view is in focus. This is especially important in sports and in driving, where you need to see as much around you as possible.|
Constant awareness of frame and lens edge, as well as reflections off the backside of the lens. || ||
With contacts, no annoying obstructions or reflections are in view.|
Uncomfortable weight on your face and ears. Periodic need for tightening or other adjustment.|| || No weight and resulting discomfort. No frame constantly slipping down your nose. |
|Glasses can fog up with changes in temperature.|| ||Contacts don't fog up.|
|Glasses can be a distraction during games and sports.|| || No distractions, which makes contact lenses a favorite among athletes. |
Fashionable and inexpensive non-prescription sunglasses are not an option if you wear eyeglasses.|| || A whole wardrobe of fashionable, functional, affordable sunglasses is available to contact lens wearers.|
Glasses need to complement your outfit. For instance, casual frames may not suit evening attire. Or colors may clash.|| || Contacts match everything you wear. |
Eyeglasses can be annoying to wear in rain or snow.|| || Contact lenses won't collect precipitation and blur your vision. |
Glasses are an unnatural, distracting barrier between your eyes and the world.|| || Contacts don't detract from your natural appearance; they let people see your eyes. |
Having said all that, many people who wear contact lenses also like to wear glasses.
So we also sell cheap prescription glasses on our sister site GlassesUK.com