VISION AND HEALTH: When Are Kids Old Enough to Wear Contact Lenses?

There are lots of reasons why parents consider contact lenses for kids. Often, the request first comes from the child who wants to do away with glasses for cosmetic reasons or practical ones, like sports and other after- school activities. But one thing that most parents struggle with is assigning an age when contact lens wear is safe for their kids. Surprisingly, research shows that soft contact lenses are just as safe for kids as they are for adults.

A review of past clinical studies looked at the risk of eye complications in patients under the age of 18 years who were wearing contact lenses. The review found that the risk of eye inflammation and infection in children is no higher than in adults, and in the youngest age range of 8 to 11 years, it may be even lower. [1]

The following are signs you and your child’s eye doctor should consider when determining whether your child is ready to wear contact lenses.

1 – Interest and Motivation.

Unless your child needs to wear contact lenses for a medical condition—for example, to slow myopia progression— or to effectively perform certain tasks, the drive to wear contacts should come directly from the kid—not from you. If your child hasn’t asked you or their doctor about contact lenses, don’t push it unless their doctor says it’s advised to help prevent or slow nearsightedness. Chances are, the request is right around the corner. Little kids tend to think glasses are cool, but after the novelty wears off and vanity takes hold, many kids want to switch to contact lenses.

And, speaking of vanity, research shows that contact lenses can greatly enhance a young person’s self- esteem. The Adolescent and Child Health Initiative to Encourage Vision Empowerment (ACHIEVE)[2] study investigated the psychological effect wearing contact lenses had on children and young teenagers over a period of three years and discovered that contact lens wearers reported an improvement in their physical appearance, acceptance among friends, athletic ability and increased confidence in academic performance.

2 – Responsibility.

Contact lenses are not toys, so the responsibility factor is important. When considering contact lenses, look at how your child behaves in other parts of life. Does your child take responsibility for homework, glasses, and other personal belongings? Kids who demonstrate signs of responsibility in other aspects of their lives tend to be good candidates for contact lenses. It’s also worth noting that maturity can’t be measured by years. Some 8 year olds are more responsible than an average 12 year old.

3 – Cleanliness.

You might be surprised to see how much more serious kids are about hygiene when they’re determined to wear contact lenses. A child who is unhappy with glasses is going to be much more motivated to take good care of contacts. But if you’re not confident that your child will clean and store contact lenses safely, talk to the doctor about CooperVision® daily disposables, such as MyDay® or clariti® 1 day. These lenses get thrown out every night and kids put on a fresh, clean pair in the morning.

4 – Activities and Lifestyle.

There are lots of benefits to wearing contact lenses. For example, does your child play sports, spend a lot of time outdoors, or often lose his glasses? Contact lenses are great for sports because you don’t have to worry about glasses slipping, and they accommodate protective eyewear and sun wear. According to the ACHIEVE study, contact lens wearers also report an improvement in athletic ability.

Once you feel your child is ready for contact lenses, make an appointment with their eye doctor to discuss, so that you can make an informed decision.

Nothing in this blog post is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please see your eye care practitioner.

[1] Bullimore MA. The Safety of Soft Contact Lenses in Children. Optometry and Vision Science, Vol. 94, No. 6, June 2017.
[2] Walline JJ, Jones LA, Sinnott L, et al; ACHIEVE Study Group. Randomized trial of the effect of contact lens wear on self-perception in children. Optom Vis Sci 2009;86:222-232.

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