Now you could throw away your used lenses...
Now you could throw away your used lenses...
Disposable lenses may be worn continuously for short periods of time or daily for longer periods (i.e. they are taken out at night). Their advantage rests in better hygiene and the lack of time for the build-up of protein deposits. Criticism of the throwaway society, to be noticed in particular with regard to disposable nappies, meant that the phrase 'disposable lenses' was not always considered helpful. In the 2000s at least one major chain of UK opticians chose to refer instead to 'Daily Replacement Lenses'.
The first disposable lens
In 1982 the world’s first disposable contact lens was introduced, the MIA lens - marketed as the ‘Danalens’ by the Synoptic group. As the name implies, this came from Denmark. MIA stands for Michael, Inga and Annette (the inventor, his wife and daughter). The technology for the MIA/Danalens lens was subsequently bought by Johnson & Johnson who changed lots of it and renamed it.
Johnson & Johnson launched their own disposable contact lenses in the USA in 1987 (see under 'ACUVUE' below).
The eastern European pioneers of soft lenses were not far behind and quickly produced their own disposable version. Our illustration shows a sample set of ten 'Spofa' soft contact lenses (c.1988), Types D and D6, each lens within a white plastic fluid-filled single lens container. The containers feature colour-coded bands and label surrounds (dark blue for positive, orange for negative). This sample set has been made up for the museum by the Wilens Company of the Czech Republic and comprises lenses from several production lots.
In 1988 Johnson & Johnson launched two products in the UK designed to suit different lifestyles. The daily wear Acuvue was taken out each night and required replacing every fortnight. The extended wear Acuvue could be worn for longer but required replacing every week.
The two big rivals to Johnson & Johnson were Bausch & Lomb and Pilkington Barnes-Hind. Both first issued a competing lens in 1989:
Bausch & Lomb produced a polymacon lens called the 'Seequence'. The design was based on their ultrathin U4 Series and the lenses were packaged for either weekly or monthly replacement.
Pilkington Barnes-Hind produced the Calendar monthly disposable lens. As with many soft lenses of the time it came in a cylindrical jar (also called a phial or, sometimes, vial) with a bung and over that a crimped foil seal. The expiry dates can be a rough guide to dating but sometimes the declared product lifetime was quite long.
The Zodiac 73 - a 'monthly-use' hydrophilic soft contact lens (c.1997) was supplied in a sealed sterile blister pack with an outer cardboard box (seen left) and included a multi-lingual instruction leaflet. This 73% water lens was a fairly short-lived product that soon ceased production. Each box contained 3 blister packs.
Daily disposable lenses
Daily disposable lenses, for use just once before throwing away, were made available in 1995. The first was the Premier Award lens invented by Ron Hamilton in Scotland. The company was later bought by Bausch & Lomb and the product transmuted into the SOFLENS 1 day. Ron Hamilton went on to launch the Provis company.
Johnson & Johnson added to their Acuvue range a 1-day daily disposable lens. The '1-Day Acuvue' is notable as the first soft disposable lens to be available throughout the world rather than in just one or two countries.
Ciba Vision followed in 1997 with their Focus Dailies range. These were made with precision quartz moulds which meant that they were highly reproducible.
In 1998 multifocal disposable soft lenses were made available. The first design, illustrated here on the left, was 'Occasions' by Bausch & Lomb.
'Freshlook' was a soft toric monthly disposable contact lens for astigmatism by Wesley-Jessen (c.2000). The very first monthly disposable toric lens was the 'Focus' by Ciba Vision (45% vifilcon and 55% water).
The first daily disposable Toric lens was launched by Ciba as part of the 'Focus Dailies' range in 2002. This added to their monthly disposable toric lens launched three years earlier (pictured). At this time Ciba Vision was the only manufacturer producing a multifocal daily disposable lens (31% nelfilcon, 69% water). They used a cast moulding process. There was also a progressive lens in the same range.
Also in 1999, silicone hydrogel lenses were made available in disposable form, the first two products being the 'PureVision' by Bausch & Lomb and the 'Night & Day' lens by CibaVision.
The continued regeneration of a brand
Whilst many contact lens products have had a very short shelf life, we have seen that there are examples of popular brand names being retained. The original 'Acuvue' lens (1988) was followed by a whole stable of companion products.
Following further refinement this product was promoted in the early 21st century as the only daily disposable lens amongst leading brands with UV protection, though the 'Daysoft-uv' from Provis was soon competing. A coloured version was added to the 'Acuvue' range in early 2004. They were considered by the makers to be the 'ideal lens for complete beginners, existing and lapsed wearers'.