Contact Lenses & Children
Contacts for Children
When can my child start wearing contacts?
There is not a minimum age that children need to be to wear contact lenses. Some infants may even be required to wear contact lenses after having cataract surgery and they tolerate them very well. On the flip side, some teenagers are not responsible enough to wear lenses. The child needs to have good hygiene and be willing to follow instructions to preserve their ocular health.
What are the benefits of contacts for children?
- Peripheral vision is better in contact lenses than glasses due to vision not being limited by the frame. This helps with sports performance and awareness.
- High prescriptions or extremely different prescriptions (anisometropia) are better corrected in contacts than glasses. With highly nearsighted prescriptions, the image sizes are minified (made smaller) and with highly farsighted prescriptions, the images are magnified.
- Contact lenses do not induce the same image size differences which may improve coordination.
- Some children absolutely refuse to wear glasses due to being teased. If this is the case, it is much better for them to be corrected in order to see to learn in school with contact lenses.
What types of contact lens options are available?
- Gas permeable lenses-a healthy option for children although it typically takes a bit longer to get used to the comfort. Gas permeable lenses have also been used to help control nearsighted prescriptions (orthokeratology). With the advent of corneal sclera lenses (large diameter gas permeable lenses) comfort has been improved greatly.
- Conventional lenses (each lens is used for a year)-these are rarely used in children as the likelihood that they will become allergic to them is high.
- Disposable hema-based lenses-this type was popular until the late 1990s but they do not breathe as well as the newer contact lens material options.
- Dailies (single use lenses)-this is the best option for children who only wear lenses part-time. It is the healthiest option as the lens is only worn one time so the risk of infection is greatly reduced.
- Silicone hydrogel lenses-these lenses have been available since the late 1990s and they allow 4 to 5 times more oxygen transmission which is good for corneal health.
- Silicone hydrogel dailies-the ultimate lens available. These are single-use lenses with high oxygen transmission. We are all looking forward to having more correction options in this type of lens.
Starting to wear contact lenses is an important decision and the child, parents, and doctor should all agree that the benefits outweigh the risks. Contact lenses can be a positive, confidence-building experience when your child is ready. As parents, the best thing we can do is model great contact lens habits.