Is Your Child Old Enough to Wear Contact Lenses? 

By Samantha Toth, A.B.O.C.

While some children enjoy the fashion statement of eyeglasses, others prefer their appearance without them.  For young children or teens who refuse to wear their glasses, many parents are left with the plaguing question, "Is my child old enough to wear contact lenses?"

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer.  Physically, the eyes can tolerate contact lenses at a very young age.  In rare cases, some babies are fitted with contact lenses at birth.  Similarly, in a recent study that involved fitting nearsighted children ages 8 to 11 with one-day disposable contact lenses, 90 percent had no trouble applying or removing the contacts without the assistance from their parents.*  The decision of whether a child is ready to wear contact lenses is directly related to their maturity, and should be determined by the parent, child and your eye care professional.  

If you considering contact lenses for your child, take a look at how they handle other responsibilities.  If your child requires frequent reminders to do their everyday chores, they may not be ready for the responsibility of wearing and caring for contact lenses.  On the contrary, children who dutifully handle their responsibilities may be great candidates for contact lenses. 

On average, many eye care professionals begin to encourage contact lens wear between the ages of
11 to 14.  Compared to adults, children develop
fewer complications with contact lenses, have stronger immune systems and usually heal faster.  In addition, children who want contacts instead of glasses are often more willing to adapt their schedules and follow the instructions to properly care for their lenses.

In addition to being great self-esteem builders, contact lenses are also great for student athletes.  Contact lenses are not a complete substitute for sports that require protective eyewear.  However, some contact lenses used for recreational use can provide better optics than eyeglasses.  Compared with eyeglasses, contact lenses provide better peripheral vision, which may improve your child's athletic performance.

It's important to establish a dialogue with the parents when determining if a child is ready for contact lenses, and to remember the decision to switch from glasses to contact lenses does not need to be a permanent one.  If a child does not adjust well, or is not able to handle the added responsibility of wearing and caring for their lenses, it is no problem to recommend glasses as an alternative for vision correction.  Contact lenses can always be tried again when the child is older.  

To determine if contact lenses are right for your child or teen, please call us to schedule an appointment!  Our doctors will help you and your child make this important decision.

*"Daily disposable contact lens wear in myopic children." Optometry and Vision Science. Vol. 81, No. 4 (April 2004); pp. 255-259.

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