Contact Lens Milestones Revisited
BY JASON J. NICHOLS, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
Leonardo da Vinci is most often cited as inventing the concept of the contact lens (Codex of the eye, Manual D, 1508). He showed that one could alter corneal power by submerging the open eye in water. He was actually thought to be studying accommodation at the time, yet this idea is often ear-marked as being the first major milestone in contact lenses.
Since that time, our field has been marked by many significant milestones that have contributed to its continued growth: the first scleral lenses, the transition from scleral to corneal lenses, the transitions from glass to PMMA to GP materials, the invention of hydrogel lenses followed by the invention of silicone hydrogel lenses, and developments in lens manufacturing. Amongst many others, significant historical contributors to these breakthroughs include people such as Descartes, Young, Herschel, Müller, Fick and Kalt, Girard, Feinbloom, Tuohy, and Wichterle and Lim.
As clinicians and scientists, it is easy to remember and to focus on positive achievements. However, it is important to remember that significant change and advances are often the result of negative outcomes. Our understanding of microbial keratitis with overnight lens wear and the recent care solution recalls most certainly have and will continue to provide impetus for further change.
In our current issue, Drs. Eef van der Worp and Nathan Efron debate a contemporary controversial issue in our field: the prognosis of GP lenses. Depending on the source, some argue that the use of GP materials and designs is declining so much so that the modality will be virtually obsolete within the near future. Others argue that the modality is not only surviving, but actually thriving. The development of GP rigid materials was a milestone in and of itself, and their demise would be an unfortunate event, but this begets the question — what would such a demise signify for the field of contact lenses? Ultimately, time will tell the future of GP contact lens wear.