From smartphones, to smart refrigerators, it seems that all things want to go smart. But, what about contact lens usage, which remained the same since day one?
Vision council of America claims that 75% of the population of the world use some kind of vision correction. More than 4 billion people use glasses, but only 130 million choose contact lenses.
This has a big impact on the contact lens industry of course, and there are two main challenges both the industry and the users are facing.
Where is the contact lens industry today?
The global eyewear market, which includes glasses and contact lenses, was valued at around $105 billion in 2020. It is expected to reach $172 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 6.0% during the forecast period.
The market for glasses is mature, with traditional frames being the most common types of eyewear. However, the market for contact lenses is expected to grow at a bit slower rate.
The global market for contact lenses was valued at around $13 billion in 2022. It is expected to reach $15,8 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 5.5% during the forecast period.
Discomfort of contact lens usage is the main challenge of the industry
Managing the number of people who discontinue contact lens usage has been an ongoing battle for the industry.
Percentage of people quitting the lenses has been a topic of many studies. Reported average dropout rates are between 12% and 27%, but they can go as high as 40%!
A study by University of Waterloo, which conducted a survey of 16 practices in Quebec, Canada, reported an average dropout rate between 26% and 40%. Ohio State University did a study on 730 patients, and reported a 24% dropout rate.
Another study, from 2017, claims that 26% of novel contact lens users switch back to glasses in the first year. Half of those quit lenses in the first two months.
Top reason for dropout, reported by all the researchers, was the discomfort of contact lens usage, with 41,9% to 52,9%.
Health risks are another great challenge in contact lens usage
The research by the CDC (US Center for disease control), shows that 99% of contact lens users reported at least one usage behavior, associated with health-related consequences.
CDC reports that one 1 out of 3 contact lens users had an eye infection which requires doctor visit. Keratitis, a serious disease which sometimes leads to blindness, is reported with one out of 500 users. The cost for the US healthcare system due to these issues alone is 175 million USD annually.
This is strongly related to the process of insertion and removal of the lenses.
To insert a lens, the user has to pick it up and place it on the finger, and then place the lens in the eye. Removing requires two fingers, in the eye, picking up the lens and taking it out.
Why this causes discomfort is an easy guess. But, at the same time, to remain safe, users have to make sure their fingers are perfectly clean. There are a lot of common life situations when this is not possible.
Imagine a user on a commute, concert, sports venue, outdoors, any situation when there is not a simple way to disinfect the fingers. And also a common situation is that the user cannot wait to get their fingers clean. If the lens moves in the eye, it has to be managed, no matter what.
So far, the users had no choice.
Medical devices for contact lens insertion and removal can solve both challenges
With a lot of players developing smart contact lenses, there are but a few working on insertion and removal devices, and one team is focused on adding “smart” to the game.
A medtech startup in Europe, called “Colsia” is developing such a device. The goal of the startup is to provide “safe, simple and smart contact lens usage”.
It is simple to use, due to the ergonomic design, which mimics the process of insertion and removal with fingers. It is safe, since it eliminates the need for the user to touch their eyes, or the lenses, with the fingers.
The device is battery powered, to generate vacuum for picking up the lens from the holding container, or the eye. Medical grade silicone suction cup is the only part of the device touching the lenses, or the eyes. The shape and vacuum hold provide steady handling of the lenses during the entire process.
And it is smart.
It is equipped with IoT (Internet of things chip), which communicates with the mobile application assistant. It tracks the usage of the lenses, and informs the user of their status. For example, the user is informed when new lenses should be ordered. The application can also be set to automatically purchase new lenses just in time before the current ones are to be replaced.
The device went through the initial clinical testing, and was given positive feedback. It is pending necessary approvals, before launching the Kickstarter campaign, probably at the end of 2023.