Children and Contact Lenses: The Great Debate. What Age is Appropriate for Contact Lens Wear?

Posted by CooperVision on Thursday, July 1, 2010

At what age is it appropriate for your child to wear contact lenses? What modality of contact lenses are best for children? Are contact lenses even an option for your child? There are many different opinions regarding children and contact lenses, and while an industry standard may not currently exist, a few leading OD's rely on key factors such as motivation and maturity when deciding whether or not to fit a child in contacts.

Hear from a few experts in the industry and read the full article on Primary Care Optometry News Online for even more information:

Mile Brujic, OD: Contact lenses offer our patients a number of benefits such as enhanced peripheral vision that is unattainable with eyeglasses, improved visual acuity in those with high prescriptions and not having to worry about damaging their glasses, because they simply are not wearing them. Realizing that these benefits are achieved by all ages of patients and that pediatric patients are more active than adults, I have removed age as a barrier to contact lens wear. 
 
Instead, I analyze motivation for lens wear, maturity level of the patient, physical characteristics of the ocular surface, prescription requirements and the patient’s lifestyle. It is a combination of these five factors that will ultimately determine whether a child will be fit with contact lenses.

Parents have to be in agreement that contact lenses are the right thing for their child. This oftentimes involves educating them in the exam room of the safety of contact lenses when fit and worn properly and the fact that adverse events are usually caused by contact lens abuse. Parents will either be very supportive, neutral or opposed to contact lens wear for their child.

I explain to parents that I want to be an objective source for them and will give them the information that they need to make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with contact lens wear for their child.

The modality of contact lenses that I prescribe for children is one that I do not try to pigeonhole to a certain age patient. So, I will usually not have one modality of lens that I recommend to a certain age group. Instead, I assess each patient individually utilizing my five criteria and determine from those factors what modality would be best for the patient, regardless of age.

Jason R. Miller, OD, MBA, FAAO: As long as the child’s eyes are healthy, with no corneal disease, and the refractive error is necessary to have correction full-time, contact lenses are an acceptable alternative to eyeglasses when the child is motivated to wear them. That is the response I give to most of the parents when I am asked in my office. 
 
I want this to be an incredibly positive experience. If I can make the transition to contact lenses extremely smooth for this young group of patients, they will likely tell many of their friends at school. Their friends who need glasses will likely start asking their parents for contact lenses and will hopefully turn into multiple referrals for my office.

For those reasons, I encourage daily disposable contact lenses most of the time when I am fitting a pre-teen contact lens wearer. I do not trust that the child will thoroughly clean their lenses or change them as recommended at a young age. Daily disposable contact lenses are much more convenient and will provide less stress on the parents.

If daily disposable contact lenses are not the best option for some reason, I immediately look to fit a silicone hydrogel material. In addition, I encourage an “extra” contact lens follow-up at about 3 months post-fitting. This enables me to check in with the child, trouble shoot any issues and make sure they are taking care of their eyes properly before I dispense an annual supply of contact lenses.

There are times when I will fit contact lenses at an even younger age if I am treating amblyopia or for myopia control. In that situation, I will provide thorough instructions to the parents on how to take care of the contact lenses in addition to taking them in and out of their child’s eyes.

Are you interested in contact lenses for your child or teen? Refer to www.mycontactsports.com to hear from more experts in the industry and to learn about the benefits of contact lenses for extracurricular activities, occasional wear, and daily wear.

About On Eye

On Eye is the contact lens blog from CooperVision. On this site, you will find insights about fitting, technology, and the business of contact lenses. The On Eye blog is designed to meet the needs of both Eye Care Practitioners and consumers. ECP and medical professional-specific portions of the blog will be password protected in order to protect and reserve the privacy of the profession. To read more about our terms of use, please see the Legal tab.

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