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Contact Lenses

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Contact Lenses

Get the facts about who’s wearing contacts.

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Different varieties of contact lenses

Contact Lens Options

Learn about all the different varieties of contact lenses.

Which Contacts are right for you?

Which Contacts Are Right for You?

Compare the pros and cons of contact lens types and materials.

Purchasing Contact Lenses

Insurance information, buying tips, and more.

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What Are Contact Lenses?

Contact lenses are clear, plastic discs used to correct the same conditions that eyeglasses do, like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism (blurred vision due to the shape of the cornea). Today contact lenses provide clear vision to more than 37 million Americans, and nearly 120 million people worldwide.

The History of Contact Lenses

Though they might seem like a recent phenomenon, contact lenses actually go back a long way. In 1508, Leonardo da Vinci first suggested that the optics of the human eye could be altered by placing the cornea directly in contact with water. It wasn’t until centuries later, in the late 1800s, that his theory was evolved into a practical lens design.

  • 1509Leonardo da Vinci illustrates the concept of contact lenses
  • 1823British astronomer Sir John Herschel conceptualizes practical lens design
  • 1887The first contact lens is manufactured from glass and fitted to cover the entire eye
  • 1939The first plastic contact lens is made
  • 1948Plastic contact lenses are designed to cover only the eye's cornea
  • 1971Soft contact lenses are introduced
  • 1981FDA approves of soft contact lenses for extended (overnight) wear
  • 1987Disposable soft contact lenses are introduced
  • 2001Progressive multifocal contact lenses are launched
  • 2002Silicone-hydrogel contact lenses are first marketed
  • 2010Custom-manufactured silicone-hydrogel lenses become available
  • 2011Water gradient daily disposable contact lenses are introduced
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Eye Care Professional
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Ophthalmologist Ophthalmologist:
Medical or osteopathic doctors (M.D.s or D.O.s) diagnose and treat eye diseases, prescribe medications and corrective lenses, and perform eye surgery.
or Optometrist? Optometrist:
Eye doctors (O.D.s) examine eyes for vision and health problems. They may prescribe corrective lenses, and in some states, they can prescribe medications and perform some eye care procedures.


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