Contact lenses are a great option for people of many ages. There is no minimum age for someone interested in wearing contact lenses. Even babies are frequently fitted with contacts to correct or treat eye problems present at birth. A person’s age should not be the deciding factor when choosing contact lenses. A parent’s judgment of each child’s level of maturity and responsibility is the best way to decide if they are ready for contact lenses. A child who is responsible enough to keep his bathroom area clean, remembers to make his bed, and perform household chores is probably old enough to consider a contact lens fitting.
It is important to know whether your child is suited for contact lenses. Contact lenses help maintain a child’s self-esteem. They are also a convenient way to correct vision for those involved in athletics or recreational activities. There is an undisputed improvement in peripheral vision with contact lens wear. There are, however, some risks involved in lens wear. The risks include infections, allergic reactions, redness, and irritation. Sight-threatening risks of contact lens wear include corneal ulcers. When patients follow prescribed care regimens and follow-up with their eye doctors, most complications are rare.
Soft contact lenses are the most popular lenses and offer the most flexibility and comfort. These lenses are ideal for athletes and are available as disposable, daily wear and extended-wear lenses. Hard or rigid gas-permeable contacts (RGPs) are sometimes a consideration; even though they are less
comfortable than soft lenses and require a more significant break-in period. They give unsurpassed clarity and are believed by some to slow down the progression of near-sightedness, however, many eye-care professionals discount this as unproven and not based on scientific fact. RGPs are not recommended for children or adults active in contact sports.
Orthokeratology (OKL) is a controversial, nonsurgical option for correcting myopia, or nearsightedness. The procedure consists of fitting a series of rigid gas-permeable lenses to intentionally modify the shape of the cornea, resulting in a temporary reduction of the nearsighted prescription. Recent studies have stated that OKL may be associated with very serious and visually significant complications. The safety of orthokeratology, especially in children, continues to be a topic of debate.
Clean contact lenses are comfortable and promote healthy eyes. Most currently available contact lens solutions make caring for contact simple and safe, but not all solutions are right for all types of contact lenses. In addition, contact lenses should be worn for only the prescribed number of hours and then removed. Though some people actually sleep in the contacts this is not advised for most individuals, a prolonged wearing can lead to increased risk of infection and injury to the eyes. It’s important that your child follow his eye doctor’s instructions about the appropriate brand and type of solution as well as an appropriate contact lens wearing and replacement schedule.
The benefits of contact lenses in children are numerous. With the proper care, the chances of adverse reactions are minimal. It is important to remember that contact lenses are not designed to replace glasses altogether. Rather, they are used in conjunction with glasses. Most success stories involve the wear of contacts on a daily basis (for approximately 12 hours per day) with up-to-date back-up glasses worn in the evening after removing the contact lenses.
David Holler, O.D.