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Cy EDWINA RALSTON
They're blue. They're rose-
tinted. They re brown.
They're soft. They're hard. More than
15 million Americans wear them.
Chickens wear them.
Yes, even chickens wear contacts
these days. Randy Wise of
Watertown, Mass., is in the final
stages of research involving chickens
that wear rose-tinted lenses to
decrease hostility. Wise's theory is
that if chickens cannot detect blood,
they will become less cannibalistic.
This should cut the death rate of
domestic chickens from 10 to 5
percent, he said.
Wise said the research has been
very successful and hopes to have the
lenses for chickens on the market for
20 cents a pair sometime this year.
The 15 million Americans have to
pay a lot more than 20 cents for their
contacts. They choose contacts
instead of glasses for different
reasons, also. Some people say they
can see better with contacts. Others
claim they look better without
glasses or without obsolete glasses!
Still others list comfort and
convenience as major reasons for
their choice. .
Aharon Darling, a 4-year veteran of
contact lenses from Aberdeen, said
she. had wanted contacts since she
got glasses at had nine years old
because' she felt unattractive in her
glasses. "I wear contacts because I'm
too vain to wear glasses," she said.
She listed fashion trends or the
lack of trends as another benefit of
contacts: "The styles of glasses keep
changing but contact styles never
Keith Mallard, a fifth-year
pharmacy major from New Bern,
agreed that changing styles are a
disadvantage of glasses. He added
that before he got contacts his frames
stayed broken a lot. "Glasses were
more trouble than they were worth.
"1 didn't enjoy wearing glasses; I
"felt like I was hiding behind
something," he said.
Rhonda Whicker, a junior from
Kernersville, said wearing glasses
does not feel natural. "Glasses get in
the way. fall off, fog up."
Of contacts, she said: "You just put
them in and you don't have to worry
Several contact lense converts said
they get a better quality of vision with
their contact lenses than with glasses.
Because there is no distance between
the lense and the eye, contact lenses
produce a normal-sized image and
the viewer's side vision is not
Doctor's recommend contacts for
increased effectiveness to patients
who have astygmatism or who have
had cataracts removed and slightly
colorblind people can improve their
ability to detect colors by wearing
Leonardo da Vinci planted the seed
in 1503 that later grew into the idea
for contact lenses. He suggested
immersing the eye or eyes into a
hollow bowl of water. Similarly, in
1637, Descartes tried to improve
vision by applying a tube full of water
with a lense: at the end to the eye.
Descartes abandoned his idea
because of its impracticality.
N ; KT HE first careful observations
j were made by Thomas Young
in the early 1600s, but the
device . he proposed similar to
goggles filled with water remained
impractical and unwieldy. Thereafter,
experimentation with different
methods accumulated and the
modern contact lense was finally
; produced: ';:.. : "
Today, provided that a person has
healthy eyes, he can choose from
several variations of contacts. The
traditional hard lenses are made from
solid plastic discs cushioned by the
eye's moisture They are less
expensive and easier to care for than
the newer soft lenses, but often
less comfortable. Soft lenses are
made of absorbent plastic and range
from semi-soft to ultra-thin depending ,
on the amount of water contained.
Research is still being done in many
different forms of contact lenses. The
Federal Drug Administration has
recently approved a soft lense that
can be worn continually for as long as
two weeks. This is the first lense that
can be slept in safely..
Despite the wide use and general
acceptance as safe of contact lenses,
some patients and doctors are
skeptical. Kelly Carr, a senior from
Sanford, tried to wear contacts on
and off for six years but was never
Carr said her doctor prescribed
several different types of lenses to her
over the 6-year period even after he
had discovered she had a condition
that prevented comfort with contact
lenses. "I think there's more to
contacts than meets the eye," she
said. "Doctors aren't taking enough
"I can see better with contacts than
I can with glasses but it's not worth
the trouble. They (contacts) are;,
dangerous,' she said. :
Dr; Michel Millodot of the
University of Wales might agree with
Carr. Millodot has : concluded that
years of contact lense use leads to
reduced sensitivity cf the eye caused
by a ; lack of' oxygen reaching the
corr,ea After -15 years, a person
wearing contacts may suffer a 70
percent loss of sensitivity; according
to his reports.
Dr. 'Kenneth. 'U Cohen of . the UNC
Department of Ophthalmology says
Millodot's findings are reliable, but
properly used, contacts - will not
damage the eyes. .:
: "Nobody has really shown any
long-term complications from
contacts. Yes, they have shown that
the- sensitivity of the cornea is
deduced; but take out the contacts
and the sensitivity returns," Cohen
. . . rncny choosa ccntocts ever e'ecscs beceuce of convenience, com
(7 ohen agreed with Millodot's
U advice that a patient should
leave the contacts out at
least one day a week and that after "
about 12 years of use, the lenses
should be left out entirely for four
Brothers Mike and Dr. Thomas A.
Costabile said that problems people
have with contact lenses are often the
result of poor fitting.
Optician Mike Costabile explained
that an optician, who has had only
nine weeks of contact lenses training,
cannot fit a lense as well as an
optometrist, who has had two years of
training in-. that area.
Ophthalmologists usually prescribe
the lenses and send the patient to an
optician for the fitting process, he
Costabile explained that in North
Carolina, ophthalmologists and
optometrists can prescribe lenses. An
: optician, can fita. prescribed lense for
a patient but he cannot make the
"Whaf s important is not the brand
(of contacts) bu-ho's fitting them. If
you're going to, get contact lenses.
' you need to go to an optometrist, ,
Cohen, an ophthalmologist,
; disagreed with this statement: "If
anybody wants to get contacts, they
should see their ophthalmologist."
Dr. James McCutchan of the UNC
Student Health Service said that UNC
students do not report a high amount
of trouble from contacts:
"Numerically, if s not a big problem."
Most of the students who come to
the health service with contact lense
problemshave left the lenses in too
long and have scratched their eye.
When this happens the student must
leave the contacts out for four days
to two weeks until the eye heals, he
McCutchan estimated that
students; .do not, have as many
problems with contact lenses as the
general public because they take
better care of . their eyes. "They
(students) have more sense; they read
and follow rules better."
Almost all doctors agree that if a
wearer follows directions, contact'
lenses are safe and highly effective.
Most practiced contact wearers have
found that to be true.
(Mallard, a reasoned soft lense
wearer, said he has had -no trouble
with. his contacts in the six years he
has worn them. "I enjoy wearing my
Although he has lost two and
damaged several more. Mallard, said
the contacts come out less expensive
than passes because he had had to
chants his glasses more often.
Vhicker .said .she is " completely
.satisfied with her hard lenses and has
crl replaced one in 2Vi years.
Parr-:; s-'J s! has never had to
rcp-ace cr;j cf her serrsoft lenses.
i s!.e has experiem vd
' C ccort she sid she n
.. "T -:.;y (,.;,.. ,:ct Lmcs) are worth it
' tcccur? I czn see better with my
contact t' an with my glasses. Out of
fcur yt?.: I've had mayte two
rr;cr, :.!: cf trc-l.'V sh? said. .
; Darling voiced the general
K consensus err.on; UNC students:
! "Ccr.tacts have been great; they're
ld.lr,a Ra!ton is MmUnt cd.tor cf