According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14 million American have problems with their vision and 79% of them would see significant improvement with corrective lenses. The most common problems treated by corrective lenses are nearsightedness (difficulty seeing things far away), farsightedness (difficulty seeing things close up), and astigmatism (blurry vision). Each of these problems are caused by imperfections in the natural lens of that prevent light from focusing on directly on the retina.
Glasses and contact use carefully shaped lenses to bending the light entering the eye and redirecting it to hit the retina correctly. These lenses were first made from quartz in the 13th century and were named by the Italians for their shape, which resembled a lima bean. A century later, glass lenses appeared that were shaped to correct both nearsightedness and farsightedness.
Eyeglasses kept improving and new types of lenses were created to address a variety of vision problems. The invention bifocals to correct both near- and farsightedness in a single pair glasses is often credited to Ben Franklin. However, it appears he was merely an early adopter of the new lenses. In 1825, a new type of lense was invented to correct astigmatism and soon after, in 1827, trifocals became available.
Today’s glasses are no longer made of glass but instead are constructed of lightweight plastics. They can be treated to resist scratching, reduce the glare from screens, and block harmful ultraviolet light. Tinted lens are sold mostly for their appearance, but also help filter light help with sensitivity or to reduce migraines. Glasses with advanced filters heighten color saturation for people with red-green colorblindness.
As we age, the natural lenses in our eyes become less flexible and it becomes more difficult to focus. By their 40s, many people begin to notice symptoms of declining vision. This age-related difficulty with near vision is known as pryopia. You may notice yourself holding a book farther away to see better, or struggling to read in low light. Your eyes may begin to feel tired or sore when reading, working on the computer or doing other close up tasks. You could even develop headaches from poor vision. All of these signs might indicate that you might need glasses.
Glasses frames have come a long way from the first bone and metal frames made in the 13th century. Early glasses resembled a pince-nez and were designed to balance on the nose. It wasn’t until 1727 that modern eyeglasses, resting on the ears and nose, were invented. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that these frames began to rise in popularity as movie stars began to wear them on screen.
From Grace Kelly’s white cat-eye sunglasses in To Catch a Thief (1955) to Tom Cruise’s classic aviator in Top Gun (1986) film stars have been setting trends in eyewear for decades. Today, glasses are more fashionable than ever before. More people, whether they need prescription lenses or not, are choose to wear glasses to be stylish. Learn more about iconic glasses frames styles from Hollywood in this infographic!