Heading into the New Millennium
BY JOSEPH T. BARR, OD, MS, FAAO, EDITOR
Last year we announced the Contact Lens Spectrum Event of the Millennium the invention of the soft contact lens. As we now enter a new millennium in the year 2001, it is likely that over 90 percent of the 80 million or so contact lens wearers on planet Earth wear Wichterle and Lim's soft contact lens invention. What will be the contact lens event of this next millennium? More importantly, what is going on now that will influence contact lenses in the early 21st century?
Here are some amazing contact lens facts for the start of the 21st century. Half of the young adult vision-care population in the United States uses contact lenses. There is tremendous growth in presbyope contact lens use. Teens are encouraged to wear contact lenses, and we expect a strong push to encourage children and teenage myopes to use RGP lenses to control myopia progression. Contact lens vision quality continues to improve. This is especially true for toric soft lenses. But the major issues remain preventing lens discomfort (so-called "drying") and inflammation and assuring ourselves lower infection rates with new high permeability extended wear contact lenses.
Each year for over a decade we have announced the Contact Lens Spectrum Event of the Year. We asked our consulting editors and other industry experts for their opinions. Nominees included: silicone-hydrogel contact lenses, Alcon's no-rub lens care approval, CIBA Vision's acquisition of Wesley Jessen, the Singapore RGP myopia study, the 15th Anniversary of Contact Lens Spectrum and the expanded use of bifocal contact lenses. This was not an easy choice. As Joe Shovlin, OD, points out, it is remarkable and commendable that the FDA approved a multi-purpose solution for rinsing and disinfection with no rubbing required, but this event is not likely to change the course of the contact lens field. As to the acquisition of WJ by CIBA Vision, consolidation of companies is expected in this industry. The Singapore RGP myopia study was incomplete at press time. And despite the awesome scientific accomplishment of silicone-hydrogel lens development, their use has not become mainstream. I believe their use will grow substantially in years to come.
The Contact Lens Spectrum Event of the Year for 2000 is the amazing growth of bifocal lens use. As I've said repeatedly this past year, if you told me a few years ago that:
- Contact lens practitioners would try bifocal lenses before trying monovision,
- More than a few diligent practitioners would positively approach their use,
- Many more practitioners would debate which lens was best than claim none of them ever work, and
- People would embrace soft disposable, frequent replacement and RGP multifocals in larger quantities on a regular basis,
I would have thought you were fantasizing.