The Contact Lens and Ocular Surface Conference, which took place in June at IMO, addressed the various advances in helping patients overcome intolerance to contact lenses. "The main areas of discussion were the different types of contact lenses available, such as progressive, soft and semi-rigid, and the conditions they are designed to address, including presbyopia (old eyes), astigmatism and complicated prescriptions. There are different types of lenses for almost all types of patient, although they do not function the same way for everyone," explained Laura González, the conference coordinator.
The latest advances include scleral lenses for users with irregular corneas, which cannot support traditional lenses, or patients with dry eye, who are unable to use lenses due to corneal irritation.
The main innovation with these lenses is that their bulge design keeps them separated from the cornea and moves the support point to the lens perimeter, which rests on the less sensitive sclera (the white part of the eye, adjacent to the cornea).
The space between the cornea and the lens is filled with artificial tears to provide constant lubrication to the surface of the eye. According to Laura González, "scleral lenses correct refractive errors, but also prevent mechanical trauma by protecting the surface, function as therapeutic lenses by improving dry eye and can delay the need for transplantation due to keratoconus (thinning of the central area of the cornea, which produces irregular astigmatism and is the leading cause of corneal transplantation in younger patients).
Another topic addressed at the conference was that of multifocal lenses, which provide the user with good far and near vision and are becoming an increasingly popular choice for many people over the age of 40, when presbyopia (old eyes) usually starts to appear.
The optometrists at the conference did, however, acknowledge that almost 80% of patients with presbyopia are still unaware that this option exists.
Finally, the specialists emphasised the role of new eye examination techniques, such as anterior OCT (optical coherence tomography), which produces microscopic 3D images of the cornea by means of an infrared laser beam. As Laura González explained, "OCT enables us to design made-to-measure lenses by showing us in an objective manner how they would fit the different points of the cornea."
Contact lens usage habits
In July 2011, the market research institute, GfK, conducted an interesting survey on the usage habits of contact lens wearers, interviewing more than 2,600 people between the ages of 12 and 65. Below are some of the findings.
- Spain has 2.5 million contact lens users aged 12 to 65, representing 7.4% of the Spanish population in that age range.
- 6 out of 10 Spaniards between 12 and 65 have never used contact lenses or any other means of visual correction.
- The average age in Spain to start wearing lenses is 21.3 years.
- Almost half of users (48%) start to wear them for cosmetic reasons. 1 in 3 users cited comfort or security and 1 in 4 claimed lenses improved their vision.
- Most contact lens wearers have myopia, predominantly men and young people under the age of 25, and 3 out of 10 users said they had astigmatism.
- More than half of wearers use soft 30-day contact lenses (51.5%), mainly the under 25s.
- Regarding the reasons for stopping contact lens use, 23.2% cited discomfort, 22.3% said that they had been operated on and 17.9% attributed it to eye problems.
- 4 out of 10 users had stored their lenses in the case without having changed the solution, especially young people under the age of 25.
- Only 3 out of 10 wearers change their lens case every month. The rest usually changes it less frequently.
- The average number of hours of use is 9.45 per day. Although some wear them for less than 8 hours, as recommended by specialists, 16.7% use them for 12 hours a day and 14.6% between 13 and 24 hours. Users between the ages of 35 and 44 misuse them the most.
- 4 out of 10 users wear them while having a nap and 2 out of 10 leave them in all night, especially men.
- 40% of contact lens wearers visit a professional for a check-up once a year, while 15% never do.