Kids and Contact Lenses Suddenly, you have a child who requires a vision correction; don’t worry, you are not alone.  In Ontario alone there are approximately 450,000 children who require some form of correction to optimize their vision.  When deciding on the best type of vision correction for your child you have options to consider. In most cases, spectacles would be the first choice and these would be worn according to the recommendation of the eye care professional who prescribed them.  As your child adapts to their new world of spectacle wear you may start to consider what other options are available.

Does your child find that wearing their glasses during sport is an inconvenience? Is it a nuisance when the spectacles steam up when they come into the house from the cold weather? Have you worried that your child might be teased at school as a spectacle wearer? Does your child want to wear sunglasses in the summer months or perhaps goggles for winter sports? Have you thought about the possibility of contact lenses for your child, but maybe dismissed the thought assuming that they are too young? Dependent upon who you talk to about contact lenses being a viable option, you may get differing opinions as there are some very common myths about children wearing contact lenses: Myth: The prescription should be stable before a child can be fit with contact lenses Reality: The prescription does not need to have stabilized. Indeed, most prescriptions continue to change as a child grows. Most children would be fit with a disposable (or planned replacement) soft lens, which are erplaced every 3-6 months. When the prescription changes the next order of contact lenses can be changed to reflect the new prescription. Myth: Contact lenses are expensive Reality: Contact lenses may be no more expensive than spectacles in the long term.  As previously mentioned, changes in prescription can be accommodated easily with contact lens wear. Changes in prescription for spectacle wearers require a new set of spectacle lenses each time. In the hands of children, spectacles may become damaged in a very short period of time and require regular repairs or replacement. Scratched spectacle lenses may need to be replaced regularly, incurring significant costs each time. Myth: Children can’t handle contact lenses Reality: It has been shown that children as young at 8 can successfully handle contact lenses. With appropriate instruction, most children can put contact lenses in their eyes and remove them easily. A recent study indicated that the average time to instruct a child to handle contact lenses is about 30 minutes, which is not dissimilar to the time it takes to instruct an adult.1 Myth: My child is too young for contact lenses Reality: Children of any age can be fit with contact lenses. In fact, babies as young as a few weeks old can be fit with contact lenses to promote better visual development after, for example, cataract surgery.  Children as young as 8 years old can be very successful contact lens wearers. 2 Myth: Children are more prone to complications related to contact lens wear than adults. Reality: Contact lens complications are no more prevalent in children than in adults. If patients adhere to instructions they have been given regarding replacing the lenses regularly and using the solution regimens appropriately then the risks of contact lens wear are significantly minimized. Myth: Contact lenses can make you blind Reality: It is true that there are complications associated with contact lenses. However, complications are rare and serious complications that can affect vision are extremely rare. All contact lens wearers should have regular follow up visits with their eye care professional to ensure that the contact lenses they are wearing are the most suitable for them. In addition, if a contact lens wearer experiences any discomfort with their lenses or notices any differences with their vision or the appearance of their eyes (such as redness) they should seek care immediately. Myth:  Contact lenses can only be worn for a finite time so children should wait until they are adults to wear contact lenses. Reality: There is no evidence to suggest that if you start to wear contact lenses as a child you may not be able to continue to wear them through adult years.  With current contact lens options, the risks of long-term complications are very small, resulting in contact lens wearers being able to continue wearing contact lenses indefinitely. Myth: Children can’t look after contact lenses. Reality: Caring for contact lenses is relatively simple and children are just as capable as looking after their contact lenses as an adult. If there is concern about compliance with contact lens care products you should discuss the option of daily disposable contact lenses with your eye care practitioner to eliminate the requirement for using daily contact lens solutions. When thinking about contact lenses, several questions are frequently asked: Q: What are the benefits of contact lens wear compared to spectacles? A: Some of the benefits are very obvious.  For example sports can be somewhat challenging to the spectacle wearer.  It has been shown that children younger than 12 years of age report better vision-related quality of life when wearing contact lenses compared to spectacles.3    Q. What is the difference between daily disposable and two-week/monthly disposable lenses? A: Different lenses are designed to be worn on different replacement schedules. Daily disposable lenses are single use contact lenses that must be discarded after each use. One of the main advantages of daily disposable lenses is that there is no requirement for care products, as lenses are simply worn and then thrown away, making them very safe and convenient. Other lenses are prescribed for specific replacement schedules. For example, it might be recommended that lenses be replaced monthly or bi-weekly, and they are cleaned and soaked in solution each night. Your eye care practitioner will advise you on the most appropriate type of contact lens for your child. Q: I want my child to wear contact lenses but he doesn’t want to. Should I go ahead with a contact lens fitting appointment? A: Children who are not motivated will not be successful contact lens wearers. It is important to find out why your child is not interested in contact lenses as a vision correction option.  He may be afraid that the contact lens will hurt, or that a lens could get stuck in his eye or disappear behind his eye. These are common fears. Your eye care professional will be able to reassure your child and will be able to allay the fears he has. Once a contact lens is placed on the eye your child’s fears may disappear. Q: Can a contact lens get stuck in the eye? A: It is uncommon to have a contact lens in the eye and not be able to remove it. Your eye care practitioner will ensure that your child is competent in contact lens removal before your child will take lenses home. You may also be instructed on how to remove lenses to ensure that there is a back up option should you child get into any difficulty. Q: Can a contact lens become lost behind the eye? A: It is not possible for contact lenses to be lost behind the eyes as there is a layer of tissue that prevents this happening. Your child is now a successful contact lens wearer. You may still have questions: Q: My child wants to wear novelty contact lenses for a Halloween party. Is it safe to do so? A: No. Contact lenses should only be worn after a full assessment and fitting from a qualified eye care professional. Contact lenses are medical devices and even those without a prescription in them (novelty lenses or coloured lenses) should be considered in the same way. You are putting your child at risk if you purchase contact lenses for them with no associated eye care Q: Can I buy contact lenses for my child from the Internet? A: Regulations in Ontario state that only qualified eye care or  medical professionals  can dispense contact lenses. contact lenses are a medical device and as such you should be receiving regular follow-up care from your eye care professional.  If you have concerns about the cost of the contact lenses talk to your eye care professional, you may be pleasantly surprised at options that are available to you. Q: Can I buy any contact lens solutions for my child? A: It is important to remain with the solution that your practitioner has prescribed for your child. There are good reasons for recommending particular care products with specific lens types and changing care products could lead to complications.  If you are considering switching solutions you should speak to your eye care practitioner. It is important to realize that not all children (or indeed adults) are suitable for contact lens wear. Some more complicated prescriptions can pose a challenge when it comes to contact lenses and some eyes just do not seem to be able to tolerate wearing contact lenses. Your eye care practitioner will be able to use a variety of diagnostic types of lenses to find the right one and if after the trial your child is deemed to not be a suitable candidate you will be advised accordingly. To find an optometrist near you, click here or call toll free   800-540-3837 . Information provided by Dr Debbie Jones on behalf of the Ontario Association of Optometrists References: 1.    Ease of Contact Lens Fitting and Training in a Child and Youth Population.  Paquette, L., Jones D., Despres M., Nandakumar K., Woods C., Optom Vis Sci 2011; 88 E- abstract 115833 2.    Daily Disposable Contac Lens Wear in Myopic Children. Walline JJ.., Long S., Zadnik K., Optom Vis Sci 2004 ;81 (4) 255-9 3.    Vision Specific Quality of Life in Pediatric Contact Lens Wearers. Rah MJ., Walline JJ., Jones-Jordan LW,. Sinnott LT., Jackson JM., Manny RE., Coffey B., Lyons S; ACHIEVE study Group. Optom Vis Sci 2010; 87 (8) 560-6  

For more information on children’s vision and eye exams for children, visit the website of our Eye See… Eye Learn Program by clicking here.