When Is Your Child Ready For Contact Lenses?

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bake-bread When Is Your Child Ready For Contact Lenses? One question that I routinely get asked during an eye exam is, “Can kids wear contacts? And at what age do you recommend my child start wearing contact lenses?” With Spring Break coming up and many pre-teens and teens out of school and wanting to try contact lenses for the first time, I’ve put together some guidelines to help you parents decide when to let your child make the transition from glasses to contact lenses.

Based on personal experience, I usually recommend 10-12 as the very earliest starting age for first time contact lens wear.  This is, however, conditional on the parent feeling that the child is ready for contact lenses. If the parent is not sure, I recommend waiting for next year’s exam. Contact lenses are a medical device.  If not taken care of properly, permanent vision loss can happen as a result of infection.

Questions to Ask: Can Kids Wear Contacts?

Ask yourself these questions to determine if now might be the time for contact lenses:

Can my child remember to brush his/her teeth each night and take care of required grooming? Does my child have good hygiene practices?

Children will need to be able to remember to take out the contact lenses, clean them, and store them properly every night if not fit into daily disposable contact lenses. Compliance to the recommended discard schedule is important. As is always remembering to wash their hands before putting in or taking out the contact lenses.

Can my child take care of his/her glasses? Does he/she break or lose them often?

It is important for your child to demonstrate responsibility and to be able to treat glasses right first. A child who has difficulty keeping up with glasses may also have difficulty keeping up with contact lenses.

Is my child motivated to wear contact lenses, or am I the one making the push for them?

I know you may want your children to not wear glasses for one of several valid reasons, but please don’t push them to wear contact lenses if they aren’t ready. Please don’t create self-esteem issues by telling your children they need contact lenses to be beautiful/successful/etc.  This is especially true if it turns out they are not a good contact lens candidate.

Am I motivated for my child to wear contact lenses?

Your child may feel ready to wear contact lenses.  As a a parent, you need to make sure you are ready to ensure your child properly takes care of the contact lenses at home.

Does my child have an underlying eye problem or eye disease that may make contact lens wear uncomfortable or risky?

Certain ocular surface problems such as chronic dry eye or bad allergies that cause watery, itchy eyes may make comfortable contact lens wear, while not impossible, more difficult.  Patients with amblyopia (commonly referred to as lazy eye—where one eye does not see as well as the other) need to protect their better-seeing eye. This means always wearing impact-resistant glasses or safety goggles over contact lenses during sports or other situations that could damage the better-seeing eye if unprotected. Taking proper care of contact lenses is also so incredibly important.  A sight-threatening infection to the better-seeing eye could leave the patient with only the vision in the poorer-seeing eye.

Other Considerations

Special Circumstances

While I usually recommend waiting until at least 10 years of age for first-time contact lens wear, there are special circumstances that I take into consideration for fitting at a younger age if the child demonstrates responsibility. A few examples include:

  • The child’s self-esteem is affected by very thick glasses with a high prescription in both eyes.
  • One eye has a significantly higher prescription than the fellow eye.  Furthermore, the child’s self-esteem is affected or if the child has difficulty adjusting to glasses with such a large prescription difference.
  • The child only needs them for part-time wear such as for sports games and practices.
  • The child has a hearing aid or other ear or face issues that make wearing glasses difficult or uncomfortable.

Contact Lens Recommendations

There are countless soft (and hard) contact lens brands on the market with options for replacement schedule ranging from one day up to even one year in the case of hard lenses.  If I am fitting a younger child, I always recommend daily disposables. If the child has shown responsibility and the parent desires a change later, I recommend a two-week or one-month disposable contact lens. While daily disposable contact lenses are considerably more expensive than the other modalities, they require no cleaning or evening storage and are less likely to cause complications. They are a great fit for first-time and established contact lens wearers of all ages as well!

I will never recommend a soft lens that a child can sleep in.  Also, I counsel parents why it is important their child properly clean contact lenses every night and give the eyes a rest. Once a child turns 18 years old, I fit overnight wear contact lenses if requested by the patient.  I will give appropriate counseling regarding the risks of overnight wear and recommend always having a backup pair of glasses!

The Process

Most doctors will do a trial period with the contact lenses where you either return to the office or touch base with the office via phone to chat about how the trial has gone. If you have any questions or concerns, please address them with your doctor! Contact lenses should provide clear and comfortable vision most of the day.  Speak up at your follow-up if your vision seems blurry or the lenses aren’t comfortable!

Anything else y’all have considered before allowing your child to transition to contact lenses?  I hope that answers the question “Can kids wear contacts?”

{Disclaimer: Of course there is no hard and fast rule.  Please listen to what your doctor tells you if it differs from my advice.  These are general guidelines my hubby (also an eye doctor) and I follow!}

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