Is My Child Ready for Contact Lenses?

Is My Child Ready for Contact Lenses?

young girl in orange top wearing glasses

If you have a child who currently wears glasses, chances are they have asked about contact lenses. This is especially true now that masks have become a standard tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19-anyone who has worn a mask with glasses knows the frustration of foggy lenses. While glasses are a functional and stylish accessory, contacts offer some freedom that glasses cannot. This makes them a great option for kids and parents who are ready for the responsibility of using them properly. In this blog, we’ll discuss the benefits and risks of contact lenses for kids to help you decide if your child is ready.

 

Types of contact lenses

There are two basic types of contact lenses: soft lenses and hard lenses. Soft contact lenses are the most common, and would likely be prescribed for a child. While hard contact lenses are sometimes used for children with specific eye care needs, we will discuss soft contact lenses in this blog.

Soft contact lenses are made from flexible plastics. They are available in a variety of replacement schedules: extended wear, monthly, bi-weekly, weekly, or daily. Extended wear lenses are designed for use during the day and can also be worn while sleeping, for up to 30 days. These lenses are not ideal for children as they carry greater risk of infection and are generally less comfortable. Monthly, bi-weekly, and weekly replacement lenses are worn during the day, stored overnight in a disinfecting solution, cleaned, and worn again the next day. Daily disposable contact lenses are thrown away after each use, and a new pair is worn the next day. Optometrists often recommend daily replacement lenses for kids and teens because they eliminate a great portion of the work and responsibility that comes with wearing contact lenses. There is less room for error when cleaning and storing lenses because they will almost always be in the wearers eye during their useful life. 

Cleaning and disinfecting lenses

Lenses worn for longer than one day must be cleaned, disinfected, and stored properly to eliminate the risk of infection and irritation. When considering whether or not your child is a good candidate for contact lenses, look at how they handle other responsibilities. Proper hand hygiene is essential to contact lens use. If your child is not diligent about washing their hands, or struggles with personal hygiene, they may not be ready for contacts yet. As a parent, remember that it will take supervision to ensure that your child is caring for their contacts correctly. 

Benefits of contacts over glasses

If you do feel that you and your child are ready for the responsibility of contact lenses, you will find that there are some great benefits to wearing contact lenses. Here are some examples:

  • Use while wearing masks-Unlike glasses, contact don’t get foggy while wearing a mask.
  • Use in sports/activities-Wearing contacts can be much less cumbersome than glasses when playing sports. Many active kids find that contact lenses are more comfortable when active, and sports equipment, such as helmets or goggles, fits better over contacts than glasses. 
  • Driving-As teenagers approach driving age, they may find that it is more convenient to wear contact lenses, because they can easily switch between wearing and removing sunglasses. While prescription sunglasses are a great idea for everyone, it can be distracting to change glasses while driving, especially for new and inexperienced drivers. 
  • Self confidence-While glasses are often worn to make a fashion statement, contact lenses can play a role in developing a positive self image. A 2007 study found that contact lens wear dramatically improves how children and teens feel about their appearance. 

Risks of contact lenses

Like any medical device, contact lenses do carry some risk. The most common risk of contact lens wear is infection. Most contact lens infections are a result of improperly cleaning or storing contact lenses, or failing to properly wash hands. Other risks of contact lens wear include:

  • Corneal ulcers-usually a result of wearing contact lenses for too long
  • Corneal abrasion-a scratch on the cornea
  • Dry eye-wearing contacts can increase dry eye symptoms

The best way to ensure contact lens safety is to follow your eye doctor’s recommendations, and to keep your lenses, cases, and hands clean. Many studies have shown that children as young as 8 years old can successfully wear contact lenses without problems, but every child is different. It is up to you, your child, and your eye doctor to determine whether or not contacts are the right option. To schedule a contact lens exam, call or text (907) 328-2920. To learn more about eyecare for children, read our blog Children’s Eye Health and Safety.

Sources: Walline et al, “Benefits of contact lens wear for children and teens” Eye and Contact Lens 2007

Image: Photo by Krishh on Unsplash

Written by: Gina Stafford COA, LDO, ABOC

 

Posted in: Uncategorized

 
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