Are Contact Lenses Suitable for Children?

When deciding if using contact lenses is the right decision for your child, there are many factors to keep in mind and it is always important to consult with your optometrist. Read more to learn about contact lenses for children.

Are Contact Lenses Appropriate For Children?

There are several factors to consider if your child expresses interest in wearing contact lenses for correcting refractive error, instead of standard prescription eyeglasses. Age and maturity are crucial when making this consideration. They are not appropriate for very young children, since they require a level of maturity to properly use and maintain. Even highly responsible younger children may have difficulty attending to the daily care of contact lenses.

 

Lenses In Children: But Are They Safe?

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA) multiple clinical studies have found that soft contact lenses are perfectly safe for children as young as 8.

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Contact Lenses For Children: Things To Consider

  • Age: Even advanced, intelligent children should not be given contact lenses until they reach a certain age. Some experts suggest that the ideal age range is 8-11, provided the child displays the requisite maturity. The study above documented that it is safe for 8 year olds.
  • Maturity: Age alone is insufficient if the child is not mature enough. If your child has difficulty with household chores and responsibilities he may not be ready yet. Signs of maturation include: displaying good habits at school and home, attending to homework and household chores. Disposable contact lenses are usually considered a better option for children because they are easier to use, and your child will have a clean, fresh, pair each morning. As a parent, it is your responsibility to determine if your child is ready for the responsibility.
  • Knowledge: Children need to understand the practical know-how on using and caring for their lenses, including all aspects of sterilizing and storing them, as well as how to put them in and remove them.
  • Experience with glasses: Many experts suggest that children first experience wearing regular corrective eyeglasses for a time, before considering the switch.
  • Health: Failure to properly maintain contact lenses can lead to infections, eye complications, and even eye disease. Children sometimes resort to unsanitary ways of cleaning their lenses, such as washing them with soap and water, using saliva, or even their hands. All of which can lead to serious eye complications and infections. Clinical studies show that a large percentage of ER visits each year involve children and complications from contact lenses. Ask yourself if your child appreciates the health aspects involved in contact lenses.
  • Allergies: Children with allergies aren't good candidates, due to swelling, irritation, and redness of the eyes.

Pros and Cons of Contact Lenses

Benefits of Contact Lenses

Despite the added responsibility of contact lenses, there are many advantages to wearing them, which make them a good option for children of requisite age and maturity:

  • They don't break during activity, and they can be ideal for active children and those who play sports. 
  • They might be a good choice for children who might be insecure or unhappy with the prospect of having to wear glasses
  • In some instances, they provide superior vision to regular glasses. 
  • There are also instances when lenses have been known to slow the development of myopia in children (nearsightedness).

Cons

  • Requires maturity and a commitment to the overall responsibility of owning such lenses
  • Some children will have difficulty inserting and removing them
  • Children need to be able to display the self-awareness to notice and report signs of discomfort, pain, and infection
Pros and Cons of Contact Lenses
The Contact Lens Eye Exam

The Contact Lens Eye Exam

Explain the processes to your child: 

  1. Schedule a comprehensive contact lens eye exam
  2. The optometrist will first give a comprehensive eye exam to assess visual acuity and overall eye health. Sometimes a prescription will differ from your prescription for glasses. Other tests include assessing to see if your child produces sufficient tears to keep the lenses moist.
  3. Contact Lens Fitting: During the fitting, the optometrist will measure the iris and pupils, and the corneal curvature to assure a proper fit. During the fitting, you will discuss what kind of lenses are most appropriate for your child based upon his examination and your child's individual needs. There are many options to choose from such as deciding upon hard or soft contact lenses, and disposable lenses versus extensive wear lenses, etc. Many doctors discourage overnight wear and recommend soft disposable lenses for children.
  4. The optometrist will instruct your child on the basic rules for wearing and maintaining contact lenses. This includes learning how to safely put them in your eyes and how to remove them, as well as the process of sterilizing and storing them.
  5. Lens Kit: When the lenses are ready your child will go home with his lens kit (case) and any eye care supplies such as eye drops and contact lens solutions.
The Contact Lens Eye Exam

Monitoring Your Child's Eye Health: Signs and Symptoms That Require Attention

Make sure to monitor your child for any signs or symptoms that might be indications of infection or ocular disorder secondary to wearing contact lenses. These include:

  • Corneal abrasions 
  • CLARE: An acronym for a type of eye redness associated with lenses: Contact Lens Induced Red Eyes
  • Dry eyes, swelling, discharge, or crustiness 
  • Squinting, complaints of funny or impaired vision
  • Pain or discomfort

Treatment: Remove them right away and notify your eye doctor if the symptoms persist. 

Serious Eye Complications

Failure to properly use contact lenses can lead to serious eye infections or ocular disorders. These include:

  • Corneal ulceration: Microbial keratitis is a rare but serious condition that can quickly degenerate, leading to corneal erosion
  • Giant papillary conjunctivitis: This infection manifests as bumps under the eyelid

Additional Information

  • Several Types of Systems: There are two popular systems for contact lenses: Hydrogen peroxide-based solutions and multipurpose care systems, which require one or two-step processes for maintenance. Make sure that your child understands all aspects of maintenance for his particular type of lens. 
  • Consider the reasons your child may want contact lenses. Do they truly want contacts, or are other factors involved? Perhaps your daughter is insecure about how she will look or is afraid that people will make fun of her? Speak with your child in order to understand her motivation which will also address the important factors involving self-esteem and self-worth, and any current stressors. 
  • Many experts maintain that overnight wear lenses are not ideal for children and that disposable soft contact lenses are preferable. Additionally, the maintenance requirements of disposable lenses are far less than standard lenses. Studies have shown that there is a risk factor for microbial keratitis, a corneal infection, among those who use overnight soft lenses.
Pros and Cons of Contact Lenses

Common Questions

There are many variables involved, but many optometrists recommend disposable soft lenses for children since they require less maintenance, are safer for children, and are usually considered more comfortable than hard lenses.
Overall maintenance of lenses is important, including making sure that your child feels comfortable with the process of putting the contact lenses in and removing them. Stress the importance of following the optometrist's instructions. Remind your child to always wash his hands thoroughly before touching the lenses or the eye region, and making sure that fingernails are kept at a normal length to prevent injury. Finally, the basic ABC's of maintenance for his specific brand of contacts is critical for non-disposables. This includes sterilizing and storing them properly in their case.
Typically soft daily disposable contacts with a high oxygen permeability are the most comfortable for patients. The specific contact lens depends on the curvature of the patient’s eyes. Different contact lens brands have different parameters and optics, so a proper contact lens evaluation by your eye doctor has to be performed to see which lens fits the best on the patient’s eye to provide the most comfortable vision.
At what age can I start wearing contact lenses? Answer: Instead of using age to determine if a patient can start wearing contact lenses, it is best determined by their maturity level. Children as young as 8 years old can safely wear contact lenses. (In fact studies have shown that kids practice better contact lens hygiene than some teenagers!). There are several different factors that are taken into consideration when determining who is a good contact lens wearer candidate so be sure to visit your eye doctor today for a proper contact lens evaluation.
Yes. Color contacts can be used for various reasons such as for theatrical/costume purposes, to provide a more subtle and natural look to enhance your eyes, or for medical purposes. Color contact lenses are a FDA medical device where an eye care provider must prescribe the lenses for you. Even if you have perfect 20/20 vision doesn’t mean you can get your color contacts from anywhere like randomly from online or from a beauty supply store (it’s actually illegal to do so!). It’s important to get a proper contact lens evaluation by an eye doctor because every eye surface is unique and each contact lens comes in different parameters, so we have to assess which lens is the best fit on your eye and the healthiest option. Color contacts can cause serious blinding infections if it’s not the proper fit, so be sure to get a proper contact lens evaluation from your eye doctor before purchasing color contact lenses.
Over the years there have been a lot of advancements in the technology of how contact lenses are made. Contacts are now made of material that provide higher oxygen permeability. There has also been an increase in the contact lens parameters including higher minus and plus powers as well as contacts with astigmatism, and multifocals for patients with presbyopia. Thus, there may now be a new option available for you, depending on the reasons why you weren't previously a candidate for contact lenses. Be sure to visit your eye doctor to have a proper contact lens evaluation and discuss which lens options are best for you.
Typically when determining whether kids are a good contact lens candidate, it doesn't really have to do so much with age, but more so with their maturity levels. In fact studies have shown that younger kids are actually less prone to contact lens associated problems than teenagers. There can be various types of contact lenses that are great for younger kids. If a child is part of the myopia management program, they typically do well in the hard ortho-keratology lenses or soft daily disposable multifocal lenses. What’s great about the daily disposable contacts is that it allows the child to wear a brand new pair of contacts every morning, so this minimizes the risk of infections and other problems that may be associated with wearing contact lenses. Soft contact lenses are also more comfortable on the eyes. However, each eye is different so it’s important to have a proper contact lens evaluation to see which contact lens is best for the child’s eye.Typically when determining whether kids are a good contact lens candidate, it doesn't really have to do so much with age, but more so with their maturity levels. In fact studies have shown that younger kids are actually less prone to contact lens associated problems than teenagers. There can be various types of contact lenses that are great for younger kids. If a child is part of the myopia management program, they typically do well in the hard ortho-keratology lenses or soft daily disposable multifocal lenses. What’s great about the daily disposable contacts is that it allows the child to wear a brand new pair of contacts every morning, so this minimizes the risk of infections and other problems that may be associated with wearing contact lenses. Soft contact lenses are also more comfortable on the eyes. However, each eye is different so it’s important to have a proper contact lens evaluation to see which contact lens is best for the child’s eye.
The short answer is any lens material that's rated for impact resistance. Given the nature of children we don't want anything that can possibly chip or fracture and cause damage to a child's eyes. This eliminates CR-39 and Hi-index given their brittle nature. Polycarbonate and Trivex are the most impact resistant and therefore the safest for children.
When determining whether kids are a good contact lens candidate, typically it doesn't really have to do so much with age, but more so with their maturity levels. In fact studies have shown that younger kids are actually less prone to contact lens associated problems than teenagers. There can be various types of contact lenses that are great for younger kids. If a child is part of the myopia management program, they typically do well in the hard ortho-keratology lenses or soft daily disposable multifocal lenses. Children who are active and play sports would benefit from ortho-K lenses. Ortho-K lenses are hard lenses that are worn at night when the child is asleep and it gently reshapes the front part of the eye. When the child removes the lenses in the morning, they're able to see clearly without needing any glasses/contact lens correction throughout the day. In regards to soft daily disposable lenses, what’s great about them is that it allows the child to wear a brand new pair of contacts every morning, so this minimizes the risk of infections and other problems that may be associated with wearing contact lenses. Soft contact lenses are also more comfortable on the eyes. However each eye is different so it’s important to have a proper contact lens evaluation to see which contact lens is best for the child’s eye.
Dr. Wernick cartoon

Should I Get Contact Lenses for My Child?

If your child is old enough and displays the responsibility for using and maintaining them he may be a candidate for contact lenses. Many reputable clinical studies have shown that contact lenses are safe for children. There is even evidence that it can slow the progression of myopia. Speak with your child to make sure that he understands the necessity of all aspects of content lens maintenance. Additionally, he will need to report any signs or symptoms of pain, discomfort, or irritation.

 

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