Contact lenses are not just for older teens and adults. Children of all ages can wear contacts, although the reasons they are prescribed differ among patients. Physically, a child’s eyes can tolerate, and benefit from, contact lens use for a variety of vision problems.
At what age can my child wear contact lenses?
Children can wear contacts at any age, however parents will need to assist with insertion and removal for children under seven or eight years of age. Young children will need help disinfecting and caring for the contacts as well. Many children who were fitted with contacts at a young age are able to take them in and out without any trouble or support from parents. Age is not the issue so much as the level of responsibility your child has mastered. If he or she routinely follows the household rules, does simple chores without prompting and is generally compliant, he will be successful wearing and enjoying contact lenses.
How difficult is it to help my child with his/her contacts?
Parents report that inserting and removing their young child’s contacts becomes very simple, requiring about the same effort as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It is not at all the dreaded chore one might fear.
What kinds of contacts would be prescribed for my child?
Soft contacts and the harder gas permeable lenses are widely used, each having benefits over the other depending on your child’s refraction prescription and reason for wearing contacts. Your child will need a comprehensive vision assessment and a discussion with the eye care professional will help you to decide among all the options. With Contacts there are a variety of brands and types your kids will have access to, with the most popular being the Acuvue Oasys, which come with a wider range of benefits. There are a number of websites that you can browse around and order contacts in the future, as seen here.
What are the primary reasons for children to wear contacts?
1. An infant who was born with congenital cataracts has a condition called aphakia, and will have surgery shortly after birth to remove the cloudy lens, and requires refractive therapy in order for the visual system to develop normally. If an intraocular lens is not inserted, the infant will usually be fitted with contact lenses.
2. Toddlers are at increased risk of trauma to the eye simply because of their impulsiveness and increased mobility. As young children are growing they must have their vision corrected if it is abnormal for any reason, or risk permanent partial or full vision compromise. Contacts can be used to ‘black out’, or patch an eye during vision therapy, forcing a “lazy eye” called ambyopia, to do the work while the dominant eye is temporarily blurred. Contacts can also be used to mask a disfigured eye and match it to the other.
3. Treatment for myopia in children; according to the American Optometric Association, Your nearsighted child can be treated using corneal refractive therapy, also known as orthokeratology or (ortho-k). Not nearly as scary or expensive as it sounds, this is a non-surgical treatment where the child wears a continuous series of rigid gas permeable lenses that gradually reshape the curvature of the cornea, effectively flattening it. Light entering the eye is thus corrected. The wonderful thing about this treatment is that it can often semi-permanently allow your child to wear the lenses only at night, or even less often, and be able to see during the day with no lenses at all.
4. Treatment for farsightedness. Not all children who are farsighted require vision correction, but among those that cannot see well up close are at a serious disadvantage as they learn to read and write. Traditional glasses or contacts may be prescribed.
5. Prosthetic contacts to correct vision for a variety of eye problems. Albinism causes painful sensitivity to light, and contacts can reduce the amount of glare and brightness entering the eye. GP, or gas permeable lenses can be used to cover the appearance of nystagmus, an involuntary shaking of the eye.
6. Not to be underestimated are the social benefits of not having glasses perched on your child’s face. Glasses fall off, they break, they cause a “fishbowl” of peripheral vision, and older children and teens will undoubtedly feel more socially confidant once the dreaded spectacles are off.
7. Sports are a huge reason to consider fitting your child with contact lenses. Sports benefit your child by reinforcing lifelong physical activity, balance, coordination, learning teamwork, the list of benefits is long. Glasses fog up, reduce peripheral awareness, get perspiration on them, and generally work against a child competing in a sport.
Treating your child’s vision problems with contact lenses may feel unfamiliar, however, in most cases the child benefits from freedom from glasses, and many can have better vision for life having been treated with prescription contacts. It is every parents desire to give their child the best care possible, and now they have another tool to make everything better. And that’s what good parenting is all about.