But according to industry figures as of year-end 2000 there are over five million people worldwide everyday who depend on their trusty contact lenses to correct vision problems.In a lot of ways, the contact lens industry just like any other field of medical care, has leveraged on revolutionary discoveries in the field of chemistry, physics and engineering.Indeed, the outward look of the contact lens has changed much since 1888 when German ophthalmologist Adolph Fick invented eye shells made out of ordinary glass which he fitted on rabbits and then later on human cadavers.The contact lens only assumed a soft jelly-like appearance and texture in the 1930s when Rohm and Haas Co. produced a resin called Plexiglass.Although Plexiglass was originally intended for the aviation industry, it became the forerunner of a rubbery resin called Polymethl methacrykate (PMMA), which replaced glass as the material of choice for contact lenses.
While the contact lens has maintained its look for over the last 70 years, today's lenses are made and crafted with high-tech materials engineered using the most modern processes.
These materials are the secret why modern soft contact lenses are durable, scratch resistant, comfortable to wear, and require very minimal care from the user. Contact lens manufacturers are also keen on using materials with surfaces that resist accumulating salt deposits from tears. This keeps the contact lens smooth, comfortable to wear, and lengthens the use of the contact lens before it needs to be replaced.
Today, the soft contact lens, which is considered a medical device, has expanded its market by providing more benefits to its new target market including the astigmatic, presbyopic (40 yrs old and above) patients and the nonprescription market. Contact lenses can provide vision correction of up to +/-20.00 diopters and astigmatisms as high as -3.00 to -5.00 C and result in 20/20 vision. Cosmetic (colored) contact lenses have become a fashion item serving the needs of the entertainment industry in the last five years. This can also be worn by patients with no errors of refraction to enhance their looks.
Recently on the local front, three multinational vision giants have bonded together under the umbrella of the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE) to embark on an educational campaign to promote the healthy and safe use of contact lenses in the Philippines.
CIBA Vision, makers of Focus Disposable, DuraSoft Colors and FreshLook Disposable contact lenses; Bausch & Lomb, makers of Optima and Seequence Disposable and ReNu Multiplus solutions; and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, makers of Acuvue and Surevue Disposable contact lenses, have pooled their resources to help consumer rediscover the advantages and benefits of contact lenses.
"We see this immediate and compelling need to educate and re-educate the public about contact lenses and what it can do for them. Although almost everybody knows what contact lenses are, that knowledge is usually just superficial," IACLE national coordinator for the Philippines and contact lens specialist Dr. Charlie Ho said in a statement.
Since eyesight is not one matter to be taken lightly, the consumer should be warned against using contact lenses that did not pass the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) standards.
These substandard contact lenses from doubtful sources flood the market and are cheaply sold to victimize consumers in exchange of huge profits. All contact lenses with BFAD approval have undergone clinical and laboratory tests to guarantee its safe use.
The ideal situation is that all customers are informed by their eye care practitioner of all available means to correct their vision and all the risks involved.
It is also the patient's lookout to make sure the products dispensed to them are: BFAD approved, that the expiration date is beyond its intended use and that all the practitioner's instructions are well understood.
"We want to reassure the public the horizon of using clinically tested contact lenses because it is a method that involves minimal risk at an affordable cost," Mr. Ho said.