Article Date: 12/1/2002

editor's perspective
Contact Lenses, Not Contacts, and Thanks

It's "contact lenses," not "contacts." Contact lenses have been trivialized enough. Often as an editor reviewing materials for lay persons, I have agreed to let journalists use the term "contacts." No more. I won't let my students say it, and I am on a mission to rid the world of the word in this context. I am not joking. It is slang, and it trivializes the science and art of contact lens care.

I recently received an e-mail from a bright young contact lens educator and future Contact Lens Spectrum columnist, Jennifer Smythe, OD, from Pacific University College of Optometry. She and Contact Lens Spectrum contributing editor Peter Bergenske, OD, also a faculty member at Pacific, were recently "ranting about our pet peeves," and she felt the need to tell me about it. Dr. Smythe said, "I hate it when professionals or advertisers say 'contacts' ­ not contact lenses, but ­ 'contacts.' Peter said you were equally bothered by that. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me." Dr. Smythe has it right. The use of this word in our field needs to stop, and not just because it reminds us of fingernails on a chalkboard or hitting a ball with a cold bat.

Here are some examples of the trivializing that we need to prevent. Internet access to contact lens purchases is one. I just heard about a GP lens wearer who clicked himself on the Internet to the purchase of soft lenses. Of course he had never talked to a doctor or contact lens practitioner about changing, he just clicked himself to a soft contact lens-induced corneal ulcer. Second is illegal importing and sales of cosmetic lenses by unauthorized suppliers, which we see the FDA recently cracked down on. The FDA quotes numerous infections as one reason for its action. Third, unauthorized lens sellers say the issue is purely economic. Rubbish. These things can destroy your vision, boys and girls. We, the practitioners, the educators, the manufacturers, the FDA ­ all of us ­ need to make it clear that contact lenses are serious business, and using a word like "contacts" does not do that. Don't use that word unless it's regarding your computer or your network of friends or business partners or the electrical type of contact. Contacts are not contact lenses! Jenny ­ you go, girl!

Having delivered this diatribe, let me finish with a message I like to convey at this time of year. Thank you. Thank you to all of you who make this publication and this field so great. Thanks to the manufacturers and scientists who've helped make contact lenses better than ever. Thanks to our advertisers, even when we disagree. Thanks to our writers, our editors, our publishers and, most importantly, thanks to our readers. Enjoy your holidays! Peace.


Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: December 2002