Eye Care Then & Now: Optometry Advancements Over the Last 20 Years


Optometry has been around since the early 1300s when the first wearable glasses were fashioned from blown glass and wood or leather. These primitive forms were usually handheld and considered a symbol of status or wealth.

Through the 1700s, glasses became hands-free with developments of the over-the-ear attachment that allowed them to sit comfortably on the face. Benjamin Franklin has also been noted as the inventor of bifocals, allowing one to see both near and far-sighted with one pair of glasses.

The 1800s bore the introduction of cylindrical lenses for correcting astigmatism. The 1900s saw glasses become more readily available and fashionable, with plastic frames making them more customizable. 

Sunglasses were invented in the 20th century to protect the eyes from the sun and reduce glare during day-to-day activities. Plastic lenses came about in the late 20th century and quickly grew in popularity due to being lighter, thinner, and more durable.


Eyeglasses were the first medical device to exist for sufferers of poor eyesight. Over the past 20 years, eyeglasses have been at the forefront of technological advancement, providing a base for high-tech versions that we are familiar with today.

Augmented reality has made its’ way into eyewear from the likes of tech companies such as Google. Google’s version, Google Glass, was discontinued but paved the way for AR technology to continue to be developed into a day-to-day wearable accessory. Google Glass was introduced in 2013 and was subsequently discontinued in 2015.

Lenses have been developed in recent years that self-adjust to focus on objects for wearers that experience specific eyesight issues like presbyopia. One method of this features a sensing unit that measures the distance between pupils to figure out when the wearer is attempting to focus on an object. One brand of these special lenses, Eyejusters, launched their line of self-adjusting glasses in 2016.


The type of contact lens that most patients wear daily are made of silicone hydrogel, which was first marketed in 2002. Since then, contact lenses have been consistently at the forefront of optometric innovation. 

Multifocal lenses have become increasingly popular as an attractive treatment for patients that need corrective options for both near and farsightedness. These lenses are also a good option for patients with presbyopia or difficulty in up-close focusing due to aging.

One of Time magazine’s “Best Inventions of 2018” was the introduction of contact lenses with transitions, which assisted in blocking harmful UV rays from entering the eye. The light-adaptive lenses are the first of their kind and will set the stage for future advancements.


Refractive surgery had its beginnings in the 1940s and has since progressed into the commonplace procedure that is widely known today. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, refractive surgery was improved due to the introduction of an excimer laser which was the dawn of LASIK surgery.

The procedure was perfected to the point of exceeding the quality of the vision produced by glasses or contact lenses. Biomedical engineers subsequently introduced the femtosecond laser to continue to improve the procedure and make it more widely accessible and affordable.


In the 21st century alone we have experienced incredible advancements in technologies to allow us to live life more comfortably. New technologies enhance the quality of service an optometric practice can provide, from record-keeping to medical procedures.

One of the biggest innovations in the past 20 years was the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, which introduced a new era in diagnostic and therapeutic eye care. The project greatly impacted the development of diagnostic strategies and procedures and paved the way for future technologies.

Electronic, computerized, automated data-gathering technology allowed practices to begin to file away the most complex of medical and business records, allowing simpler filing procedures and more focus on the patient. As optometric practices continue to grow and change, automated technologies have grown and changed with them, becoming a routine part of eye care offices worldwide.

One of the biggest benefits of the advances we’ve seen in optometry in recent years is the ability to provide continuously better service to our patients. Book an appointment today to ensure your eyes stay happy and healthy.

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