The number of contact lens wearers, both for vision correction and cosmetic eye-color beautification, continues to increase annually. This growth is primarily attributable to the use of Hydrogel in contact lenses.
Hydrogel is a network of water-insoluble polymer chains capable of retaining 90% or more water content within a gel base. The world market for hydrogel products designed for end users has been divided into six separate segments. The top two end user segments for 2015, contact lenses and hygiene products, represent approximately 75 percent of all hydrogel merchandise.
A recently published Allied Market Research report projects a hydrogel market value of $27.2 billion by 2022. This value is based on a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 6.3 percent for the worldwide marketing of hydrogel from 2016 to 2022. The contact lens segment of this CAGR is 5.8 percent, or 92 percent of the total increase.
The latest advancement in the use of hydrogel for soft contact lenses is called silicone hydrogel contact lenses. These lenses allow more oxygen to pass through the lenses than are currently able to pass through conventional soft lenses. The eye health benefits of wearing silicone hydrogel contact lenses are that they resist protein deposits, lower the risk of infections, lower the level of lens dryness, and have fewer complications with extended wear usage. Based on the convenience of extended eye wear and the improved eye health benefits of silicone hydrogel contact lenses, a large number of eye doctors predict more patients will wear these lenses than any other form of lenses in the near future.
Silicone hydrogel contact lenses are either Spherical, for normal vision corrections and eye color beautifications, or Toric, for astigmatism vision corrections. There are currently five different market brands of Spherical lenses that range in extended wear capabilities from 30 continuous days of usage to two weeks of daytime use. There is one current brand of Spherical lenses designed to encourage more lens wetness that can be of benefit to individuals with dry eyes. For astigmatism, there are currently two Toric market brands available. One Toric brand provides extended wear for 30 continuous days of usage and the other brand provides two weeks of daytime use.
While the use of silicone hydrogel currently dominates the contact lens industry, there are a number of ongoing research projects intended to develop additional alternative products for contact lenses. These research activities involve working with polyacrylamide hydrogel and polymacon hydrogel. The excitement about the use of hydrogels is due to the material’s ability to be highly absorbent with both natural and synthetic polymeric chains. Because of their high water content, there is a measure of flexibility in hydrogel that resembles natural body tissues. This flexibility enables the contact lenses to remain in their natural form, and not flatten out, when not being worn.
With today’s contact lens technologies and with the planned future advancements, it is easy to understand why the world hydrogel market is attracting so much positive attention. The future is truly looking brighter and clearer for contact lens wearers.