Eye-Opening Contact Tidbits: 10 fun facts about lenses to amaze and surprise your patients

Although contact lenses are a huge part of modern optometric practice, there’s so much more to learn about these unassuming silicone wonders. We uncovered 10 amazing facts about contact lenses that you can use to impress your patients.

It’s impossible to imagine modern optometry or ophthalmology without contact lenses. While some patients would never choose to wear them due to various reasons, others have had their lives transformed by them.

For this month’s edition of COOKIE magazine, we scoured the annals of history and dove deep into uncharted Internet territories to discover some amazing facts about contact lenses.

Eye-Opening Contact Tidbits: 10 fun facts about lenses to amaze and surprise your patients

1. Rabbits were the first to wear contact lenses

Most of you will know that contact lenses were first successfully manufactured by German ophthalmologist Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick in 1888, who fabricated the first afocal scleral contact lens. Made of brown glass, his first designs were heavy and naturally uncomfortable. But did you know who his very first patients were?

As it turns out, it wasn’t humans. Instead, it was the lab rabbits that Fick had at his disposal. Fick would eventually go on to try his lenses first on himself and then on volunteers. But isn’t the image of fluffy white rabbits in an 18th-century German laboratory wearing giant 18-21 mm brown lenses just so bizarre?

2. Contact lenses used to be categorized as drugs

At one point, contact lenses were categorized as drugs by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This highlights how, at least initially, contact lenses had a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to jump through before wider adoption. This wasn’t even that long ago, historically speaking.

It was only in 1971 when Bausch & Lomb (Quebec, Canada) released the first-ever commercial contact lenses in the US that the FDA finally reclassified them. This allowed the pharmaceutical company to start marketing soft lenses in the States, a move that would go on to revolutionize eye care.

3. Contact lens compliance is (un)surprisingly low

As an optometrist, you know that getting patients to properly look after their ocular health can be difficult at the best of times, especially with contact lenses. How to wear them, when to take them out, how to clean them and maintain hygiene, among others—there’s a lot for the average person to take in. But do you know how many of them fail to comply on a daily basis?

Up to 25% of contact lens wearers completely fail to comply with their clinicians’ usage recommendations.1 What’s more, only 32% demonstrate satisfactory compliance overall. Perhaps it’s time for optometrists to adopt stricter methods to ensure patient obedience.

Eye-Opening Contact Tidbits: 10 fun facts about lenses to amaze and surprise your patients

4. There is gender disparity among contact lens wearers

Women are from Venus, and men are from Mars… as the old saying goes. Although gender equality is closer than ever, there are still some key differences between the sexes. While this phenomenon is most associated with superficial issues, it turns out that there are noticeable differences in optometry, too.

Case in point: According to the CDC,2 out of the estimated 45 million Americans who wear contact lenses, two-thirds of them are women. This disparity is particularly acute in the 18-24 age group, with an even 70/30 split. The difference is less noticeable among younger people aged 12 to 17, at 52/47.

5. Contact lenses can remain lodged in the eye for decades

As an optometrist, you must’ve given hundreds, if not thousands, of contact lens wearers the same warning during their visits: Take your contact lenses out before you go to sleep. Of course, as we’ve already mentioned, compliance can be a problem, and sometimes strange things happen as a result.

In one case in the UK, an 81-year-old man had a lump around his eyelid, which turned out to be a contact lens that had remained lodged in his eye for 40 years since it was first inserted. According to the doctors involved in the case, this was the longest delay in diagnosis ever reported in the ophthalmic literature.3

6. Millions of people wear lenses solely for aesthetic reasons

The vast majority of contact lens wearers wear contact lenses to correct visual problems. However, there is a considerable and growing market for those who want to wear lenses solely for aesthetic reasons. These lenses don’t offer any vision correction whatsoever but instead, come in a range of colors and styles—from purple irises to contact lenses that turn the entire eye black.

In 2016, the market share occupied by aesthetic contact lenses was 11% in the US, which consisted mainly of colored or tinted lenses.4 This is projected to remain unchanged until 2024. While the vast majority of wearers don’t report any adverse effects, it’s worth mentioning to your patients that this may not be the best idea, as these lenses are not manufactured to the same exacting standards as the corrective variety.

7. You can fit 27 contact lenses into one eye

It turns out that the ocular cavity has a considerable capacity for contact lenses. In another rare case from the UK (no, we don’t know why Britain has all of these bizarre contact lens cases either), a woman was found to have 27 contact lenses lodged in her eye.

Yes, you read that right, 27 contact lenses! And what was more remarkable was that she didn’t appear to have any visual problems. The 67-year-old was due to undergo routine cataract surgery, and somehow the ‘bluish mass’ of the contact lenses had eluded both herself and her optometrists up until that point. The lenses were removed safely to no ill effect.

8. NASA developed contact lenses for outer space

Now, this is something that’s really ‘out of this world’! NASA actually helped to develop contact lenses that could be used by its astronauts in outer space. In 1993, the agency collaborated with Paragon (Arizona, USA) to create a contact lens that could work in an environment where gravity is significantly reduced, as interactions between solids and liquid are worlds different than on the Earth’s surface.

Paragon subsequently developed its hyper-purified delivery system contact lenses based on its cooperation with NASA. They were designed to be gas-permeable and didn’t contain any water whatsoever, making them significantly less likely to harbor harmful bacteria. These lenses could also be worn for up to seven days at a time.

9. Contact lenses cure angsty teens

Do you remember when you were a socially awkward, gangly teen? Being a teenager is tough under the best of circumstances, but especially so when you have a vision problem. The
good news is that contact lenses can help with that.

Studies5 have consistently shown that children who wear contact lenses instead of conventional glasses report significantly higher confidence, better sporting performance, improved self-image, and even enhanced school performance. Indeed, it seems contact lenses are a win-win when it comes to boosting the happiness of angsty teens.

10. The best (of lenses) is yet to come

The coolest fact we can tell you about contact lenses is that there is so much to look forward to in the coming years! Lenses are at the forefront of technological development in both ophthalmology and optometry, using some of the most avant-garde technologies available, including artificial intelligence, 3D printing, drug-eluting and more!

Of course, COOKIE magazine is following many of these latest updates in this very issue. No one knows what other contact lens oddities the future could bring—but we are certain they will be cool.


  1. Bui TH, Cavanagh HD, Robertson DM. Patient Compliance During Contact Lens Wear: Perceptions, Awareness, and Behavior. Eye Contact Lens. 2010;36(6):334-339.
  2. Healthy Contact Lens Wear and Care. Available at Accessed on August 2, 2023.
  3. Shams PN, Beckingsale AB, Sheldrick JH, Rose GE. An unusual eyelid lump: unsuspected embedded contact lens for up to 40 years. Two cases and literature review. Eye (Lond). 2011;25(10):1371-1373.
  4. Contact lenses in the US – Statistics & Facts. Available at Accessed on August 2, 2023.
  5. Building children’s confidence with contact lenses. Available at Accessed on August 2, 2023.

Editor’s Note: This article was published in COOKIE magazine Issue 13.

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