Like always, Leonardo da Vinci was ahead of his time. In as early as 1508, with his power of brilliant imagination, his sketches depicted in detail of what is now known as the contact lens. Da Vinci was not the only person in the past fascinated with enhancing the human eye condition. In 1820, an English astronomer named John Herschel also made a similar proposal, suggesting that a lens be put and conformed precisely to the surface of the eye. Herschel adds that the lens must fit exactly to the person’s eyeball. Both Da Vinci and Herschel paved the way for A.E. Fick, who invented the first experimental contact lenses in 1887. While these lenses were clunky, heavy, and exerted too much pressure on the eyeball, it was the beginning of an innovative technology that would revolutionize the world forever.
Over the next century, there would be many researches and studies in order to understand the human eye condition. Finding the right material to make the contact lens was a problem. In its early development, glass-blown sclerotic lens were the favoured but ultimately ineffective solution. After many experiments and failures, including attempts with a material called polymethylmethacrylate during the 1930s, the real answer was discovered within the year 1949 when the first corneal lenses were developed. Smaller in size than the original sclerotic lenses, these contacts rested on just the cornea rather than the entire ocular surface. Furthermore, since it was so light and unobtrusive, the lens could be worn up to sixteen hours per day.
These enhancements increased the appeal for contact lenses, which was quickly becoming the convenient alternative to eyeglasses. However, the lenses were still somewhat costly and fragile, and it wouldn’t be until the mid-1990s before technology has made contact lenses affordable and easily replaceable.
Nonetheless, the design and development for contact lenses expanded over the next several decades. Manufacturers begin creating more elegant and sophisticated designs, such as non prescription coloured contacts. These became the perfect cosmetic accessories, especially for people who wanted to alter the natural colour of their eyes. Now it was possible to have baby blue eyes, jade green eyes, chocolate brown eyes, brilliant turquoise eyes, or even crimson red eyes if one so wishes. The possibilities for reinventing a person’s appearance and identity became almost endless.
Contact lenses also serve many practical purposes. Unlike typical eyeglasses, these contacts are less likely to steam up when moving in between contrasting temperatures. These lenses also give a clearer field of vision, because there is nothing obstructing the peripheral sight line. People who have previously worn spectacles their whole lives can now enjoy the freedom of wearing nothing in between their ears. It was a liberating discovery.
There are some disadvantages to contact lenses, however, such as the fact that they could not be worn for prolonged periods of time. In fact, it is highly recommended that the contact lenses are cleaned and disinfected for an ongoing basis. The process of putting contact lenses on and off is quite time-consuming. It also requires a person to develop discipline, for not following the guidelines can lead to an infected eye and hindered vision.
The silicon hydrogel has become the standard material for contact lenses since 1999. This cheap and inexpensive material has made wearing contact lenses so much more comfortable. Unfortunately, they lack durability, which means contact lenses must be replaced more often. This, however, is not so much of a drawback, for it is recommended that you change contact lenses between time to maintain the health of your vision.
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