Parents will often ask optometrists if contact lenses are safe and appropriate for kids. The answer is Yes, they certainly can be – but it really depends on the child.
Approximately four million American kids under 18 wear contacts. There is no age requirement for contact lenses – a child’s eyes are able to accept lenses at a very young age. However, a child’s maturity and level of responsibility are significant factors in deciding whether or not contact lenses are an appropriate choice for each child. Contacts can be a great fit for kids responsible enough to properly care for them.
According to the American Optometric Association, 97% of optometrists fit contact lens patients under 18. Most optometrists (51%) find it proper to introduce kids to contact lenses between ages 10 and 12 and an additional 12% thought contact lenses were a valid option for 8-9 year olds; approximately one in ten optometrists find it appropriate to fit contact lenses for kids younger than 8. This may be partially due to studies finding that contact lenses can help kids with performance in academics and athletics, as well as self-confidence. If you and your child think contacts might be a good fit for their vision needs, here are some things to keep in mind to help make the transition from glasses to contacts as smooth as possible.
Visit with Your Optometrist
While the temptation of shopping for contacts online is a strong one, it’s important for first-time contact lens wearers – especially kids – to be properly fit by a professional. Though you may know the power of your son or daughter’s glasses, a contact lens prescription will often be different because it rests directly on the surface of the eye instead of being positioned several millimeters in front of the eye. A doctor will not only determine the correct power for the lenses, she will also look at the health of the eyes and evaluate other factors in order to determine the best type of contacts for your child. She will also walk your child through proper contact lens care. Finally, many internet distributors are not FDA approved and may lead to more problems than the seeming convenience is worth.
Start with daily disposables
According to the AOA, an increasingly higher number of optometrists are fitting contact lenses for children because of the ease and convenience of daily disposable lenses. Disposable lenses are easy for kids to start with, because they’re low maintenance: a child can wear a new pair each day without having to properly clean and store lenses as they develop their new habit.
Respect the Process
While transitioning to contact lenses is a positive change for many, the transition from glasses to contacts is still significant. For younger kids especially, optometrists often recommend wearers use glasses as the primary method of correcting vision. Once wearing and caring for his contacts becomes habitual and easy, your child can gradually start wearing these lenses more regularly. It’s also important for all new contact lens wearers to allow extra time in the morning and at night to put in and take care of the lenses and establish good habits.
Making the change from glasses to contacts is exciting and can be a daunting for someone at any age, though patience and preparation will make a world of difference for the contact lens wearer (and his or her parents!). Click here to learn more about contact lenses and how Uptown Eye Care can help you and your family find a perfect fit.