The Fascinating World of Contact Lenses: How They've Evolved and What's Next...

I'm delighted to announce that I've been invited to give a lecture at the Melbourne University Student Optometry Conference. My assigned topic is "The Past, Present, and Future of Contact Lenses." I plunged into some venerable textbooks (courtesy of Richard) to explore this fascinating subject, and now I'm eager to share what I've learned with all of you, our valued patients.

The idea of altering vision through a lens placed directly on the eye isn't new; it can be traced back to the works of visionaries like Leonardo da Vinci and René Descartes in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, their concepts remained theoretical until the late 19th century when the first glass "scleral" lenses were developed. These lenses were designed to cover the entire front surface of the eye (the cornea and the sclera), making them bulky and uncomfortable.

By the early 20th century, glass lenses had given way to lenses made from new materials like Plexiglas (PMMA), which were lighter and somewhat more tolerable. But the real game-changer arrived in the 1950s with the introduction of hydrogel. This material revolutionized the industry by allowing for the production of soft, breathable contact lenses, paving the way for the comfortable lenses we know today.

What does the future have in store for contact lenses? From smart lenses that monitor health metrics to 3D-printed custom fits, we can expect groundbreaking innovations. Self-adjusting prescriptions might become a reality, sparing you frequent visits to the clinic. And as sustainability becomes increasingly important, biodegradable lenses could offer a win-win solution for both vision and the environment.

Contact lenses have come a long way, evolving from theoretical sketches in dusty manuscripts to tangible, multifunctional devices that improve our daily lives. The next time you put in your contacts or consider switching from glasses, remember you're participating in a long legacy of optical innovation.

As always, if you have any questions or need a consultation, feel free to reach out. We're always here for you.


- Jillian