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History of Contact Lenses

Have you ever wondered when contact lenses were invented? Or who invented contact lenses? With an estimated 45 million people in the United States wearing contacts, according to the CDC, it’s hard to imagine a world without them. So how did it all begin?

  1. The famous Italian inventor Leonardo Da Vinci sketched out the idea that a human eye’s optics can be changed by placing water on the cornea.
  2. William Feinbloom, an optometrist from New York, came up with scleral lenses which were made out of glass and plastic that weren’t as heavy as the purely glass lenses.
    Contact Lens Sketches
  3. Kevin Tuohy, a California optician, invented contact lenses similar to the rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses that are prescribed today. These lenses were made all from plastic and only covered the cornea. The plastic material was made out of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) which were considered the early hard contacts.
  4. Bausch + Lomb’s SofLens brand came out as the first FDA-approved soft contact lens in the U.S.
  5. Rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses were invented. These essentially took over the place of original hard contacts made out of PMMA. They are thinner and more oxygen permeable. Rigid Gas Permeable RGP Lenses
  6. New soft contacts were FDA-approved for extended wear. These contacts can be worn continuously including overnight which was never allowed before. Colored contacts were also invented this year by Ciba Vision to change the appearance of the wearers’ eyes.
  7. Soft bifocal contacts were launched. The two different prescriptions in one lens are designed for correcting presbyopia and other refractive errors.
  8. Extended wear gas permeable contacts were released five years after the extended wear soft contacts came onto the market.
  9. Disposable soft contact lenses were introduced. Today, 90% of contact lens wearers use soft contact lenses. Disposable Soft Contact Lenses
  10. Daily disposable contacts were released and are the most convenient choice for many contact lens wearers.
  11. Acuvue partnered with Transitions Optical to develop vision correcting contact lenses that could adjust to light known as Acuvue Oasys with Transitions.

Extreme improvements have been made since the first contact lenses. With rapid advancements in technology, contact lenses have come a long way in vision correction, convenience, and comfort. It’s impossible to predict how much more they will develop in the future.

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