Michael Cole, OD, Child and Family EyeCare Center
Contact lenses provide distinct advantages when worn by children. Often, we see children peering over glasses rather than through them. Frequently, they forget to wear them altogether. Glasses break when children play too rough. Glasses are often cumbersome and interfere with performance when participating in activities, like dance, sporting events, and gymnastics.
Often, parents have concerns regarding contact lenses and their children such as: Are contact lenses safe for children to wear? When is the right time to start wearing contact lenses? What type of contact lens is best for children?
I find that parents are best at determining whether a child’s maturity and responsibility levels are adequate to monitor their own contact lens wear. If a child can be self-motivated enough to practice good personal hygiene — including showering, brushing teeth, and wearing clean clothes — they will usually be a responsible candidate for contact lens wear.
Sometimes, contact lenses are worn even during infancy. After an unusual early ocular surgery, such as congenital cataract removal, the eye is left severely out of focus. Without some type of optical correction during early development, the eye will never learn to see as well as it should. Glasses are unacceptable in these cases due to the extremely high prescription needed, and contact lenses are by far the best option. Infants and toddlers are not capable of taking care of the lenses themselves; so, the parent is responsible for insertion, removal, and disinfection of the contact lenses.
While these cases are rare, they demonstrate that there is no age that is “too young” for contact lens wear. The earlier the employment of contact lenses, the more involved the parents will need to be in order to achieve successful and safe contact lens wear.
In some situations, optical correction with contact lenses is superior to glasses wear. This is especially true with very high glasses prescriptions, or in cases where the correction in one eye is significantly different than the other eye. In these situations, contact lenses may not provide better clarity of vision, but certainly improve the quality of vision. Contact lenses would provide better peripheral vision, help to equalize the difference between both eyes, and are cosmetically more acceptable than thick or unequal lenses in glasses.
Contact lens technology has improved tremendously since the inception of these medical devices decades ago. Over the years, problems with oxygen transmission to the eye, infections, and comfort have been greatly reduced. Using modern contact lenses, adverse complications are very rare unless a person has either slept in their contact lenses or worn them longer than the approved replacement schedule dictates. Unfortunately, contact lens wearers are notoriously poor caretakers of their vision, and complications still happen frequently due to improper wear habits. These adverse events are often misdiagnosed as “pink eye” and not treated appropriately.
The safest and most comfortable contact lens wear utilizes daily disposable contact lenses with modern materials. When contact lenses are worn for one day only, concerns of over wear and long-term complications are almost completely eliminated. Because daily disposable contact lenses are the most healthy option with the least risk, they are recommended especially for children whenever possible.
Contact lenses are a safe, effective alternative for children of all ages. For more information, please give our office a call at (435) 363-2980 or visit cachecfec.com.