Recent research carried out by the College of Optometrists has revealed that some people are living in the past. This is particularly so of British women. Whereas our understanding of contact lens hygiene has come on leaps and bounds since the mid twentieth century when contact lenses first became widely available to a wider population, some people persist in practices that pre-date the development of specialist cleaning fluids and sterile storage containers.
Licking lenses is one of the most disgusting of these practices.
Our illustrations show contact lens cases from circa 1960 - that's forty seven years ago in case you needed help with the maths. In those days lenses were supplied in attractive jewellery boxes. They reflected the value of the contents which might still equate to the cost of a small car. There was certainly no thought of them being disposable. With such an investment you hoped to be able to keep on using your contact lenses for many months, possibly years. You were even given a cloth with which to wipe your lenses (after licking them?) that was stored in the case alongside the lenses. The sole concession to hygiene was a suction holder to help insert the lens instead of using the finger, but in fact that practice is not considered a problem today (for many patients it is the easiest method of insertion) whereas inappropriate storage, or cleaning, or even the sharing of lenses certainly is.
The cases include examples by George Nissel Ltd and Obrig Laboratories, the latter designed for the concentra range of corneal lenses. Although the external case was bought in from elsewhere, manufacturers were beginning to customise the interior to suit their individual products. Some have mirrors on the inside of the lid to help when inserting the lenses. In this respect the parallel would be with ladies make-up boxes or lipstick mirrors. It gives us an idea as to just at whom these products were targeted. The enamelled case with the crowns on the lid was for a brand called Vent Air. The round case is based on a KIGU powder box or 'compact'. Gustav Kiashek founded the KIGU company in Hungary and his sons Charles and Paul brought the craft to London at the same time as their compatriot and fellow immigrant Josef Dallos was introducing new techniques of contact lens fitting to Londoners. Could there be a connection? All of these cases entered the museum in 1978 as part of the Frank Dickinson Collection.
The College's research into contact lens hygiene identified that women are the worst offenders!
Find out more about the historic development of cleaning and soaking fluids.