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What’s the Right Age for Children to Start Wearing Contact Lenses?

Contact_Lens_AyalaOne of the most common questions we eye doctors hear from parents is “How old does my child have to be to start wearing contact lenses?”

Contact lens wear is not a function of a child’s age. In fact, many infants and toddlers wear them.  Every case differs, and it’s really just a matter of the level of maturity for the child’s age.  I usually turn to Mom or Dad and ask if they think their child is ready to take on one more responsibility in addition to what they already have in his or her daily life.  And the response usually indicates whether or not we will proceed.

Here are a few things that may help you decide whether contacts are a good idea for your own children:

What are the options for my child?

 Most contact lenses that we fit today are of the soft variety.  They can be replaced every day, every two weeks or every month.  My preference for kids is the daily disposable lens.  This option gives them a fresh, clean lens every day without any of the hassle of cleaning or storing the lenses.  It’s the safest option.

The biggest responsibility with this type of lens is to make sure the lenses make it in to the trash can at the end of the day.  That’s it!  Recent advances in daily disposable lens material have made these lenses the most comfortable of all lens choices that I prescribe.

Some contact lenses can slow the progression of nearsightedness.

Nearsightedness, also known as myopia, is a common vision condition where one’s near sight is better than distance sight.  In recent years, we have seen studies that are trying to determine how to prevent the worsening of myopia.  Researchers at The Ohio State University and Hong KongPolytechnicUniversity have found that myopia is reduced  when orthokeratology lenses are worn at night only.  Also known as Ortho-K, these specially designed lenses are very much like dental braces.  They are also a great option for active children.  I used these lenses personally for one year before I had my LASIK eye surgery done, and they worked incredibly well.contact lens kids orthok

In an independent study conducted for the Contact Lens Manufacturers Association, 69% of responding eye doctors said they believe that Ortho-K contact lenses may reduce the progression of childhood myopia.

Contact lenses are better for sporting activities.

Even if your child is wearing polycarbonate eyeglass lenses, if the frame breaks during the game, it can still cause an eye injury. With contacts, he or she still has the option to wear protective sports goggles. On the field, contacts allow more freedom of movement, excellent peripheral (side) vision and less distortion than glasses.  This can allow for quicker reaction time and improved performance.contact lens kids

Many children, and most teenagers, prefer contacts over glasses.

The self-esteem of our children and teenagers is strongly related to their appearance.  In a clinical study, 80% of parents agreed that contacts dramatically improved the quality of life and confidence of their kids.  Once they start wearing contacts, we find that many shy kids come out of their shell and begin participating more in daily activities.

Eye care professionals report great results with kids and contact lenses.

No eye doctor will prescribe contact lenses for children or teenagers who aren’t ready for them or who don’t have a good reason to wear them. I don’t hesitate to “unprescribe” them if a child doesn’t take good care of them.  And I will never over rule a parent who doesn’t think their child is ready.

So talk it over with your eye doctor.  He or she is the best person to help you decide what’s right for your children’s vision correction.  When properly cared for and worn as instructed by an eye doctor, contact lenses for kids are a safe and healthy option.