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Jan. 8, 2020, 1:19 a.m. EST

How will the robust technological innovations impact eyewear industry outlook?

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Jan 08, 2020 (AmericaNewsHour) -- Once considered to be a commodity associated with aging generations and bulky frames, the modern eyewear industry has undergone massive transformations. There was once a time when spectacles were perceived to be a burden, contact lenses were a far-fetched futuristic concept and the idea of using lasers to cure vision impairment was unconceivable.

Over the years, however, characterized by evolutions in technology and design, the eyewear industry shed its perception as a hindrance and instead became a solace for those suffering from vision problems and a style statement for the fashion-conscience generation of the present.

Even considering its murky reputation, the eyewear market has always been considerably profitable, with markups of nearly 100% being quite common.

This is not surprising, considering that nearly 22 billion people across the globe are expected to suffer from blindness or vision impairment. Of these, nearly 1 billion people have a preventable or unaddressed vision impairment.

High prevalence of refractive errors and vision-related issues is a key driver propelling eyewear market growth

Eye problems, particularly in the older population are quite prominent. Studies have shown that nearly 25-30 million people experience some form of age-related macular degeneration. Another prevalent eye problem in the U.S is refractive errors. These can include commonly occurring issues like nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), overall distorted vision (astigmatism) or issues experienced by population in the 40-50-year age group like presbyopia, which includes inability to focus on close by objects and read comfortably.

Refractive errors can usually be corrected by using various types of eyewear, including glasses, contact lenses or even surgery in some cases. In fact, reports have shown that appropriate refractive correction is likely to enhance the vision of nearly 11 million U.S citizens, ages 12 and above.

Another key factor driving the eyewear market is the escalating reliance of the younger generations on digital devices such as TVs, cellphones, computers and more. This heavy dependence has given rise to a new form of vision impairment, called computer vision syndrome or CVS.

People in the 21 [st] century, particularly the younger generations, are no strangers to eye strain brought on by excessive screen time. Headaches, eye dryness, discomfort and sight problems are commonplace in a time where digital screens are omnipresent.

Reports from the Vision Council suggest that approximately 59% of people using digital devices routinely suffer from computer eye strain or digital eye strain.

One of the best ways to mitigate the harmful impact of screens and their blue-light emissions is to use the right kind of eyewear, e.g. computer glasses. Computer glasses are designed to filter nearly 30% of the blue-light, between wavelengths of 400-470hm, and even up to 90% of the most powerful straining wavelengths. Furthermore, the incorporation of ani-glare coating in these products aid in sharper vision and reduction in reflections, thereby cutting down risk factors for CVS.

The eyewear industry has also been boosted significantly by the emergence of contact lenses. Contact lenses are a boon for the vision impaired as they offer clear sight without the need for actual spectacles. Contact lenses are designed to mold themselves to the eye, which means they are able to offer a much more natural view as opposed to spectacle, which can obstruct vision to a certain extent. Contact lenses are especially popular among people who maintain active lifestyles or engage in sports.

Unlike previous contact lens offerings, which offered solutions only for people suffering from simple refractive errors like myopia, recent advancements in contact lens technologies have expanded their reach to people suffering from complex and specific vision issues as well. Modern contact lenses offer many more benefits beyond their primary functionality of vision correction.

For instance, Johnson & Johnson Vision have recently unveiled their new first-of-its-kind contact lens technology, the ACUVUE OASYS with Transitions. These lenses have an integrated light-intelligent technology in the form of photochromatic molecules dispersed throughout the material. Thus, alongside vision correction, these lenses help the user's eyes to adapt to dark or light easier than they could on their own.

The advent of surgical vision correction solutions is hampering industry development

Even as new eyewear technologies continue to emerge on the scene, the progression of LASIK and such other corrective eye surgery technologies are likely to become a restraining factor for the eyewear market. Since laser surgeries offer the user vision improvement sans the requirement for additional equipment and eyewear maintenance, it is possible that people will turn towards this solution for the eye-related problems.

With the average costs of eyeglasses hovering at around $244 per pair in 2014, and the possibility of changing prescriptions over their lifetime, LASIK and other eye surgeries may present users a more cost-effective option for vision correction.

Prolific trends facilitating extensive eyewear adoption

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