Impact in contact lenses and the anterior eye: challenges prevailing in 2015

James S. Wolffsohn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


As we settle into a new year, this second issue of Contact Lens and Anterior Eye allows us to reflect on how new research in this field impacts our understanding, but more importantly, how we use this evidence basis to enhance our day to day practice, to educate the next generation of students and to construct the research studies to deepen our knowledge still further. The end of 2014 saw the publication of the UK governments Research Exercise Framework (REF) which ranks Universities in terms of their outputs (which includes their paper, publications and research income), environment (infrastructure and staff support) and for the first time impact (defined as “any effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia” [8]). The REF is a process of expert review, carried out in 36 subject-based units of assessment, of which our field is typically submitted to the Allied Health, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy panel. Universities that offer Optometry did very well with Cardiff, Manchester and Aston in the top 10% out of the 94 Universities that submitted to this panel (Grade point Average ranked order). While the format of the new exercise (probably in 2010) to allocate the more than £2 billion of UK government research funds is yet to be determined, it is already rumoured that impact will contribute an even larger proportion to the weighting. Hence it is even more important to reflect on the impact of our research.

In this issue, Elisseef and colleagues [5] examine the intriguing potential of modifying a lens surface to allow it to bind to known wetting agents (in this case hyaluronic acid) to enhance water retention. Such a technique has the capacity to reduced friction between the lens surface and the eyelids/ocular surface, presumably leading to higher comfort and less reason for patients to discontinue with lens wear. Several papers in this issue report on the validity of new high precision, fast scanning imaging and quantification equipment, utilising techniques such as Scheimpflug, partial coherence interferometry, aberrometry and video allowing detailed assessment of anterior chamber biometry, corneal topography, corneal biomechanics, peripheral refraction, ocular aberrations and lens fit. The challenge is how to use this advanced instrumentation which is becoming increasingly available to create real impact. Many challenges in contact lenses and the anterior eye still prevail in 2015 such as:

-While contact lens and refractive surgery complications are relatively rare, they are still too often devastating to the individual and their quality of life (such as the impact and prognosis of patients with Acanthmoeba Keratitis reported by Jhanji and colleagues in this issue [7]). How can we detect those patients who are going to be affected and what modifications do we need to make to contact lenses and patient management prevent this occurring?
-Drop out from contact lenses still occurs at a rapid rate and symptoms of dry eye seem to be the leading cause driving this discontinuation of wear [1] and [2]. What design, coating, material and lubricant release mechanism will make a step change in end of day comfort in particular?
-Presbyopia is a major challenge to hassle free quality vision and is one of the first signs of ageing noticed by many people. As an emmetrope approaching presbyopia, I have a vested interest in new medical devices that will give me high quality vision at all distances when my arms won’t stretch any further. Perhaps a new definition of presbyopia could be when you start to orientate your smartphone in the landscape direction to gain the small increase in print size needed to read! Effective accommodating intraocular lenses that truly mimic the pre-presbyopic crystalline lenses are still a way off [3] and hence simultaneous images achieved through contact lenses, intraocular lenses or refractive surgery still have a secure future. However, splitting light reaching the retina and requiring the brain to supress blurred images will always be a compromise on contrast sensitivity and is liable to cause dysphotopsia; so how will new designs account for differences in a patient's task demands and own optical aberrations to allow focused patient selection, optimising satisfaction?
-Drug delivery from contact lenses offers much in terms of compliance and quality of life for patients with chronic ocular conditions such as glaucoma, dry eye and perhaps in the future, dry age-related macular degeneration; but scientific proof-of-concept publications (see EIShaer et al. [6]) have not yet led to commercial products. Part of this is presumably the regulatory complexity of combining a medical device (the contact lens) and a pharmaceutical agent. Will 2015 be the year when this innovation finally becomes a reality for patients, bringing them an enhanced quality of life through their eye care practitioners and allowing researchers to further validate the use of pharmaceutical contact lenses and propose enhancements as the technology matures?
-Last, but no means least is the field of myopia control, the topic of the first day of the BCLA's Conference in Liverpool, June 6–9th 2015. The epidemic of myopia is a blight, particularly in Asia, with significant concerns over sight threatening pathology resulting from the elongated eye. This is a field where real impact is already being realised through new soft contact lens optics, orthokeratology and low dose pharmaceuticals [4], but we still need to be able to better predict which technique will work best for an individual and to develop new techniques to retard myopia progression in those who don’t respond to current treatments, without increasing their risk of complications or the treatment impacting their quality of life

So what will your New Year's resolution be to make 2015 a year of real impact, whether by advancing science or applying the findings published in journals such as Contact Lens and Anterior Eye to make a real difference to your patients’ lives?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-78
Number of pages2
JournalContact Lens and Anterior Eye
Issue number2
Early online date30 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


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