When children first express an interest in wearing contacts, parents frequently ask this question of their eye doctors. Are contact lenses safe for children? A child’s maturity and ability to safely handle contact lenses are more crucial than his or her age.
When Can Children Begin Wearing Contact Lenses?
Contact lenses are worn by four million American children under the age of 18. A child’s eyes can handle contact lenses at an early age physically. Some infants are equipped with contact lenses at birth due to congenital cataracts or other visual issues.
In a recent study, 90 percent of nearsighted children aged 8-11 who were fitted with one-day disposable daily contact lenses had no trouble inserting or removing the lenses without assistance from their parents.
If you are thinking of getting your child contact lenses, evaluate how he or she manages other obligations. Is he well-groomed, cleans his room and bathroom regularly, and completes his homework and household responsibilities on time?
If children need to be reminded to keep things clean and follow appropriate hygiene habits regularly, they may not be ready to wear and care for contact lenses. However, if they are capable of handling such responsibilities, they may be good candidates for contacts.
If they accept responsibility for their contact lenses, children are natural contact lens wearers. They are usually quite driven to use contacts and adjust well to them.
Dry eyes, which can cause contact lens-related difficulties in adults, are also less common in children. Furthermore, younger children may follow contact lens care instructions better than teenagers and young adults, resulting in fewer difficulties with over-wearing contacts or not using the proper contact lens solutions.
Sports Contact Lenses
Contact lenses have a lot of advantages over spectacles for youngsters who participate in sports.
Even if your child’s eyeglasses have impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses, you must be concerned about the frames shattering during contact sports, perhaps resulting in an eye injury. Additionally, during competition, the lenses of sports eyeglasses or safety glasses might fog up, impairing visibility and performance.
Sport contact lenses address these issues while also providing other benefits, such as an unobstructed view of the playing field and improved peripheral vision, allowing your child to react faster to other players and things approaching from the side, such as a soccer ball or baseball.
When your child is running, contact lenses stay in place on his or her eyes, allowing for more accurate and stable vision. Many contact lenses, particularly gas permeable (GP) lenses, provide superior vision over spectacles; this results in improved vision, which may help athletes perform better. With sharp vision via contact lenses, a baseball player, for example, might see the ball a few milliseconds earlier.
Using Contact Lenses to Improve Self-Esteem
Many children are self-conscious about wearing eyeglasses or dislike how they look in them. Contact lenses can improve a child’s self-esteem by improving their perception of their appearance.
Researchers discovered that contact lens wear “substantially enhances how children and teenagers feel about their looks and involvement in activities” in a recent study of 169 children who were wearing prescription eyeglasses before being fitted with contact lenses.
71.2 percent of children aged 8 to 12 and 78.5 percent of teenagers stated they would rather wear contact lenses than spectacles in the research. Children as young as eight years old were shown to be equally capable of wearing and caring for the silicone hydrogel contact lenses used in the study, which Vistakon sponsored.
In another study, 484 children aged 8 to 11 were randomly assigned to use eyeglasses or contact lenses for three years. At the end of the study, the children who wore contact lenses had higher survey ratings for self-perception of their physical attractiveness, athletic competence, and social acceptance.
Also, remember that transitioning your child from glasses to contact lenses does not have to be a long-term commitment. If your child does not adjust well to contact lenses or does not want to take on the responsibility of wearing and caring for them, he or she can quickly go back to wearing glasses. It is always possible to try contact lenses again at a later time.
Using Contact Lenses to Manage Nearsightedness
Another reason to get your child fitted with contact lenses is that, in some cases, contact lenses can help slow down the progression of nearsightedness in children.
In fact, recent research has found that specially designed gas-permeable contact lenses and multifocal soft contacts can help many nearsighted children regulate their myopia.
In addition, orthokeratology (or “ortho-k”), a modified method of fitting rigid gas permeable contact lenses, has been shown to be effective in reversing existing nearsightedness in myopic children. The procedure involves the use of specially constructed GP lenses that alter the shape of the cornea as the patient sleeps. The lenses are removed in the morning, and if effective, ortho-k allows a nearsighted individual to see clearly without using glasses during the day.
However, the myopia correction achieved by ortho-k is just temporary. In order to preserve good uncorrected vision during the day, the cornea-reshaping lenses must be worn every night.
Researchers in New Zealand recently found that experimental “dual-focus” soft contact lenses slowed the progression of nearsightedness in youngsters aged 11 to 14 compared to standard soft contact lenses.
The dual-focus lenses had a core optical zone that corrected myopia completely, surrounded by peripheral zones that corrected myopia to a lesser extent. The lenses were created based on earlier research that suggests that peripheral defocuses in the retina may minimize the lengthening of the eyeball associated with myopia progression during childhood.
The dual-focus lenses reduce myopia progression by 30% or more in 70% of the children in the trial over the course of 20 months while offering visual acuity and contrast sensitivity compared to traditional soft contact lenses.
Though the FDA has not yet approved the dual-focus lenses used in the study for use in the United States, researchers are continuing to develop novel contact lens designs that eye doctors could soon recommend to help children with myopia progression.