Millions and millions around the world wear contact lenses, though you might not know it just by looking at these people. If you’re not familiar with contact lenses, let’s introduce you to these incognito but common little helpers.

What is a contact lens?

A contact lens is a thin, curved lens placed on the film of tears that covers the surface of your eye. The lens itself is naturally clear, but is often given the slightest tinge of colour to make them easier for wearers to handle. Today’s contact lenses are either hard or soft. Most people wear the latter form now, but it wasn’t too long ago that contact lenses were even glass blown!

A brief history of the contact lens

While contact lenses may seem to be a modern addition to eye care, they actually have a long and illustrious history, kick-started by none other than Leonardo da Vinci and Rene Descartes.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century, however, that a German glassblower produced a lens that could be seen through and reasonably tolerated, and a German ophthalmologist came up with and fitted the first contact lens, which could be worn for a few hours at a time.

Types of contact lenses

While contact lenses are still most commonly worn for vision correction, there are also contact lenses for purely cosmetic and novelty purposes.

Colour contact lenses can enhance or completely change the hue of your eyes, and costume contact lenses create the special effects you see on the big screen.

All contact lenses, however, are medical devices, regulated by the government. Prescription contact lenses and cosmetic contact lenses all require a prescription.

This is because even common complications such as infection and inflammation might lead to vision loss or blindness. The best ways to prevent complications is to:

  • Talk to your optician if you’re thinking about contact lenses
  • Buy contact lenses from a legitimate source
  • Keep your contact lenses well cared for and clean
  • Follow all the instructions around your contact lenses and lens products
  • Stick to your wear and replacement schedule

Wear and replacement schedules

In order to keep your eyes and vision in peak performance and health; each pair of contact lenses is manufactured and prescribed for a certain wear schedule; and to be replaced after a defined period.

Daily disposable contact lenses are worn throughout the day then discarded before bed and replaced by a fresh pair in the morning. Other lenses have different replacement schedules.

There are cosmetic contact lenses to enhance, or even change, the colour of your eyes. This includes "plano," or zero power, lenses with no magnification.

There are even black sclera contact lenses to complete your next Halloween costume. However, since contact lenses are medical devices, you should speak with an eye care professional before using such novelty contact lenses.

It seems like no matter what your vision needs may be, we now have contact lenses to fulfil them.

Whatever your lifestyle and preferences, your optician can help you find the right contact lenses or eye care solutions for you. Remember to always consult a professional with questions about the health of your eyes and vision.

What's next around the corner for contact lenses? Stay tuned!

Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please see your eye care practitioner.
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