When deciding on the best type of vision correction for your child, you have options to consider. In most cases, glasses would be the first choice and these would be worn according to the recommendation of the eye care professional that prescribed them. However, does your child find that wearing their glasses during sports or dance is an inconvenience? Are your child’s glasses always dirty, crooked and broken? Is it a nuisance when their glasses steam up when they come into the house from the cold weather? Does your child want to wear sunglasses in the summer months or perhaps goggles for winter sports? If your child has trouble adapting to their new world with glasses, you may start to consider contact lenses.
It has been shown that children younger than 12 years of age report better vision-related quality of life when wearing contact lenses compared to glasses. Some assume children are too young for contact lenses. Here are some truths about contact lenses for children:
Fiction: The prescription should be stable before a child can be fit with contact lenses.
Fact: The prescription does not need to be stable prior to fitting children with contact lenses. Indeed, in most cases, the prescription continues to change as a child grows. Most children are fit with disposable (or planned replacement) soft lenses, which are replaced every day. When the prescription changes, the next order of contact lenses can be adjusted to reflect the new prescription.
Fiction: Contact lenses are expensive.
Fact: Contact lenses may be no more expensive than glasses in the long term. As previously mentioned, changes in the prescription can be accommodated easily with contact lens wear. Changes in the prescription for glasses require a new set of glasses lenses each time. In the hands of children, glasses may become damaged in a very short period of time and require regular repairs or replacement. Scratched lenses may need to be replaced regularly, incurring significant costs each time.
Fiction: If I have contact lenses, I don’t need glasses.
Fact: Contact lenses do not replace glasses for all activities, such as school science labs. Contacts cannot be worn by teens more than approximately 12 hours per day and should not be worn if you are sick or have an eye infection or eye injury.
Fiction: Children can’t handle contact lenses.
Fact: It has been shown that children as young as eight can successfully handle contact lenses. With appropriate instruction, most children can put contact lenses in their eyes and remove them easily. A recent study indicated that the average time to instruct a child on how to handle contact lenses is about 30 minutes, which is similar to the time it takes to instruct an adult.
Fiction: My child is too young for contact lenses.
Fact: Children of any age can be fit with contact lenses. In fact, babies as young as a few weeks old can be fit with contact lenses to promote better visual development after, for example, cataract surgery. Children as young as eight years old can be very successful contact lens wearers.
Fiction: Children are more prone to complications related to contact lens wear than adults.
Fact: Contact lens complications are no more prevalent in children than in adults. If the parents and children adhere to the instructions they have been given regarding, wearing time, replacing the lenses regularly and using the solution regimens appropriately, then the risks of contact lens wear are significantly minimized.
Fiction: Children can’t look after contact lenses.
Fact: Caring for contact lenses is relatively simple and children are just as capable at looking after their contact lenses as an adult. If there is a concern about compliance with contact lens care products you should discuss the option of daily disposable contact lenses for your child with your doctor of optometry, to eliminate the requirement for using contact lens solutions. It is important to realize that not all children (or adults) are suitable for contact lens wear. Some more complicated prescriptions can pose a challenge when it comes to fitting contact lenses and some people just do not seem to be able to tolerate wearing contact lenses. Your doctor of optometry will be able to use a variety of diagnostic lenses to find the right one for your child and if after the trial your child is deemed to not be a suitable candidate at that time, you will be advised accordingly.