In the US alone, millions of children begin wearing glasses at a very early age. Most kids would love to get rid of their glasses and they tend to start to pester parents about getting contacts almost as soon as they become aware of the fact that contacts are an option.
Many parents have significant concerns about allowing children, especially those not yet into their teen years, to transition from glasses to contact lenses. Deciding what age is right for your child is a very personal decision and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Some children are very responsible and mature and can handle the routine of caring for their eyes and the contacts at a younger age, while others may require more time to mature.
Most optometrists or pediatric optometrists do not recommend contacts for children until they are at least 8 years of age. The general consensus is that most children between the ages of 8 and 12 can be taught how to safely handle the contacts and put them in and take them out of their eyes without the assistance of a parent.
The key is to talk to your child and discuss the responsibility of wearing contacts.
It is always a good idea to discuss why your child is so interested in contacts. For some children glasses pose problems with team sports, contact sports, dance, gymnastics or other specialized activities. Kids may also experience bullying or teasing because of their glasses and a switch to contacts may help boost self-confidence and decrease issues with peers.
Types Of Contacts
For many children, daily wear contact lenses are a perfect match. These lenses are for single use only so there is no need to rinse, clean and store the contacts. Each morning the child inserts a new set of lenses that are pre-packaged and sterile as well as marked for the left and right eye. At the end of the day the lenses come out and go right into the trash.
Rigid long use types of contact lenses may be a good option for older children that are responsible enough to clean, store and work with the lenses. Parents will need to be involved in periodically checking up on adherence to the cleaning and care routines for the lenses and to make sure the kids are comfortable in talking to them about any difficulties they may be experiencing. Since bacterial build-up on these types of lenses is a real concern for eye health parents and optometrists need to have regular communication with the child about the importance of the routine.
Night Wear Contacts
Some research into the use of contacts at night, specifically for children with myopia (nearsightedness), has been very positive. Children wear the contacts at night while sleeping and the shape of the cornea, the outer layer of the eye, is slightly altered. In the morning, the contacts are removed and the child does not need to wear either glasses or contacts during the day.
It is important to realize that this is not a “cure” for nearsightedness and the contacts need to be worn each night to provide the benefit. More research into contacts to correct myopia or limit the progression of the condition in children may lead to greater options for parents to consider in the future.
Deciding whether or not contacts are the right choice for your child is a personal decision, and should be made by considering all factors involved.