In August 1968, Consumers’ Research touched upon the dangers of wearing contact lenses for long periods of time. At that point, modern contacts had been around for nearly two decades and had gained mass appeal, but were far different from the lenses that consumers are familiar with today. Most contacts were made of a hard, rigid plastic that did not permit the passing of oxygen to the cornea, posing serious danger to wearers. It was not until 1971 that the first FDA-approved soft contact lenses, similar to those on the market today, became available in the United States.
The 1968 issue of our magazine warned consumers that these hard plastic lenses could scratch the cornea of the eye, and the scratch would go unnoticed if the lens were left in for too long. An untreated corneal scratch can lead to a vision-impairing scar or even the loss of an eye, and we suggested that lenses only be worn for ten to twelve hours at a time. Warnings against over-wearing contacts are still prevalent in 2016, but the proposed time restrictions have changed drastically.
Nearly fifty years since that original article, massive advancements have been made to contact lenses. In the years following the 1971 release of soft contact lenses that offered significantly more comfortable and easier insertion, popularity exploded. In 1998, the first hydrogel contacts hit the market, and they are still the most popular type of lens, currently worn by the more than 30 million contact wearers in the United States. These new lenses were found to have such high oxygen permeability that they became approved for extended wear. Instead of the ten to twelve hours that CR originally suggested in 1968, developments in medicine and technology now allow for some types of contact lenses to be safely worn for up to a month.
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