What Is the Process for Making Contact Lenses?

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The process for making contact lenses depends on the type of lens being made. Soft contact lenses are generally the most popular, and they are made through an extrusion process with plastics and molds. Discover the history of contact lenses with information from an ophthalmologist in this free video on eye care and vision problems.

Part of the Video Series: Eye Care & Vision Problems
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Video Transcript

My name is Doctor Alan Watson. I'm an Ophthalmologist in St. Joseph, Missouri and we're here today to talk about eye problems. Contact lenses are changed over the years. The first contact lenses were seen in pilots of German bi-planes back in World War I. People that were flying planes back then had trouble with using their goggles because their glasses would fog up and they couldn't see how to fly their bi-plane. And so, some German ophthalmologist back in World War I developed a lens that the pilot could put on their eye and provide correction for their near sightedness or astigmatism. Those first contact lenses were actually made out of glass, they were quite large, and as you can probably well imagine, very uncomfortable. But it did get the pilot to where he could wear his goggles and protect his eye and see in adverse situations. Over time, that material became replaced by what's called polymethymethacrylate or PMMA. And that was the hard contact lens that was very durable, but it didn't allow the oxygen to penetrate the contact lens and get into the cornea. Your cornea, the surface of your eye actually gets the oxygen, a good part from the air around us. And that oxygen which is in the ambient air is necessary for that tissue to stay alive. And so, that's how the gas permeable contact lenses came into being because it allowed that oxygen to penetrate the contact lens material and get to the cornea of the eye where it's needed to keep the front of your eye healthy and intact. Soft contact lenses are a type of plastic that's flexible and those contact lenses are generally much more comfortable for patients. They don't correct astigmatism as well as the gas permeable lenses, especially for high degrees of astigmatism. Because the soft contact lens needs a little weight at the bottom to keep the contact lens material oriented in the proper position to treat the football shape of the eye that we talked about earlier with astigmatism. It wouldn't help your astigmatism at all if that axis of the football wasn't aligned appropriately with the corrective lens. And so, these weights on the contact allow those patients the function. But those contact lenses themselves are usually just made through an extrusion process with plastics and molds and the molds are set to direct the different degrees of near sightedness or the different degrees of astigmatism. This has been Doctor Alan Watson, Ophthalmologist of St. Joseph, Missouri discussing different eye problems and the treatment of different eye problems with you.

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