Children have valid reasons for wanting to switch from eyeglasses to their first contact lenses. Maybe their glasses seem cumbersome or ugly, sit uncomfortably on the face or slide down continually during study times. Maybe the wearer plays a sport that makes glasses inconvenient or unfeasible (You can learn more about lens choices at Horizon's Contact Lenses page.).
If your children have requested contact lenses, or you think they’ll benefit from such a change, ask yourself three questions:
Not Everyone Can Wear Them
First, are they candidates for contacts? Doctors recommend that children who don’t have good vision in both eyes stay with eyeglasses. If one eye will never see well – for instance, amblyopia causes a breakdown in how the brain and eye work together – glasses remain the best option, glasses remain the best option, partly because they offer a physical barrier to protect the eyes from trauma. Contact lenses remove that barrier and expose the one good eye to the risk of a foreign body on its cornea.
Doctors are most inclined to recommend contacts for active or athletic kids with a high-myopic condition, where they need the correction for nearsightedness but glasses aren’t practical.
Choices About Design of First Contact Lenses
Second, what kind of contacts would a child tolerate best? Doctors prefer to fit kids aged 11 and up with daily disposable soft lenses, if those are available in their prescriptions. These are the safest and most comfortable lenses, because you throw them away after each use. Doctors can correct regular high astigmatism with soft lenses these days. So, they typically reserve rigid gas permeable lenses for people with irregular astigmatism. Such is the case for patients who have keratoconus or corneal scarring that distorts the shape of their eyes.
In 2019, the FDA approved a lens called MiSight to prevent the progression of myopia in the 8-to-12 age range. But that’s a touchy age for lens wear, so when families seek to slow myopia progression, Horizon’s pediatric doctors generally favor atropine drops applied daily to both eyes.
Kids Have To Be Responsible
Third, will children be careful about hygiene? Soft lenses should be removed every day, and if they’re reused they must be cleaned and stored overnight in a solution. Wearers ought to be independent enough to remember this without parental supervision.
The FDA reports that roughly 70,000 children go to the emergency room each year for injuries and complications from medical devices. One-fourth have issues related to contact lenses, such as infections and abrasions. The most serious risk is that of corneal ulcers, which can lead to vision loss if left untreated. That’s why eye care professionals don’t recommend extended-wear lenses for kids: Left in the eyes for long periods, they can increase the risk of those ulcers.
Children under 11 may be too squeamish or forgetful to insert and remove lenses. (If you’re still reminding them to brush their teeth twice a day, they don’t need contacts.) Luckily, they generally don’t worry much about appearance until middle school, by which time they’re usually motivated to use lenses properly.
What if a child younger than 11 really does want their first contact lenses? Parents may be responsible for insertion, removal and hygiene until the kid gets old enough to take over. If you’ve ever had a similar experience when bringing home a puppy, think hard about such a commitment.
Horizon Eye Care Can Help
To schedule a consultation at Horizon Eye Care, use our Patient Portal or call 704-365-0555 Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.