Shehzad A. Naroo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


The year so far has been a slow start for many businesses, but at least we have not seen the collapse of as many businesses that we were seeing around two years ago. We are, however, still well and truly in the midst of a global recession. Interest rates are still at an all time low, UK house prices seem to be showing little signs of increase (except in London where everyone still seems to want to live!) and for the ardent shopper there are bargains to be had everywhere. It seems strange that prices on the high street do not seem to have increased in over ten years. Mobile phones, DVD players even furniture seems to be cheaper than they used to be. Whist much of this is down to cheaper manufacturing and the rest could probably be explained by competition within the market place. Does this mean that quality suffered too? Now that we live in a world when if a television is not working it is thrown away and replaced. There was a time when you would take it to some odd looking man that your father would know who could fix it for you. (I remember our local television fix-it man, with his thick rimmed bifocal spectacles and a poor comb-over; he had cardboard boxes full of resistors and electrical wires on the floor of his front room that smelt of soldering irons!) Is this consumerism at an extreme or has this move to disposability made us a better society? Before you think these are just ramblings there is a point to this. According to latest global figures of contact lens sales the vast majority of contact lenses fitted around the world are daily, fortnightly or monthly disposable hydrogel lenses. Certainly in the UK over 90% of lenses are disposable (with daily disposables being the most popular, having a market share of over 50%). This begs the question – is this a good thing? Maybe more importantly, do our patients benefit? I think it is worth reminding ourselves why we went down the disposability route with contact lenses in the first place, and unlike electrical goods it was not just so we did not have to take them for repair! There are the obvious advantages of overcoming problems of breakage and tearing of lenses and the lens deterioration with age. The lenses are less likely to be contaminated and the disinfection is either easier or not required at all (in the case of daily disposable lenses).
Probably the landmark paper in the field was the work more commonly known as the ‘Gothenburg Study’. The paper, entitled ‘Strategies for minimizing the Ocular Effects of Extended Contact Lens Wear’ published in the American Journal of Optometry in 1987 (volume 64, pages 781-789) by Holden, B.A., Swarbrick, H.A., Sweeney, D.F., Ho, A., Efron, N., Vannas, A., Nilsson, K.T. They suggested that contact lens induced ocular effects were minimised by:
•More frequently removed contact lenses
•More regularly replaced contact lenses
•A lens that was more mobile on the eye (to allow better removal of debris)
•Better flow of oxygen through the lens
All of these issues seem to be solved with disposability, except the oxygen issue which has been solved with the advent of silicone hydrogel materials. Newer issues have arisen and most can be solved in practice by the eye care practitioner. The emphasis now seems to be on making lenses more comfortable. The problems of contact lens related dry eyes symptoms seem to be ever present and maybe this would explain why in the UK we have a pretty constant contact lens wearing population of just over three million but every year we have over a million dropouts! That means we must be attracting a million new wearers every year (well done to the marketing departments!) but we are also losing a million wearers every year. We certainly are not losing them all to the refractive surgery clinics. We know that almost anyone can now wear a contact lens and we know that some lenses will solve problems of sharper vision, some will aid comfort, and some will be useful for patients with dry eyes. So if we still have so many dropouts then we must be doing something wrong! I think the take home message has to be ‘must try harder’!
I must end with an apology for two errors in my editorial of issue 1 earlier this year. Firstly there was a typo in the first sentence; I meant to state that it was 40 years not 30 years since the first commercial soft lens was available in the UK. The second error was one that I was unaware of until colleagues Geoff Wilson (Birmingham, UK) and Tim Bowden (London, UK) wrote to me to explain that soft lenses were actually available in the UK before 1971 (please see their ‘Letters to the Editor’ in this issue). I am grateful to both of them for correcting the mistake.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103
Number of pages3
JournalContact Lens and Anterior Eye
Issue number3
Early online date10 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


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