Are kids too young to wear contact lenses?
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It’s actually not a matter of age when a child can wear contact lenses. What families need to consider is whether the child can practice good hygiene and take responsibility to care for the lenses. There may be 9-year-olds who can responsibly handle contacts and 16-year-olds who cannot. Virtually all contacts nowadays are ‘soft,’ meaning they don’t require a long adaptation period in order to wear them easily. How the patient handles the contacts is what really matters.
Many families start to think about contact lenses when their kids are involved in sports. This is understandable since glasses may be cumbersome and offer less-than-perfect vision on the field of play. Parents shouldn’t push for kids to wear contacts, but ask themselves instead: Is the child motivated and capable of caring for contact lenses conscientiously? That is key. Here are some other general questions that I get from parents:
Are kids at greater risk of complications from wearing contact lenses?
Kids don’t have any greater risk than older teens and adults for complications from contact lenses as long as they practice good hygiene and care which means:
- Never use tap water or put contacts in the mouth to clean them. There is bacteria in both drinking water and saliva. Only use contact lens cleaning solution.
- When contacts are removed, make sure they soak in cleaning solution, not saline, in a clean lens case.
- Change the contact lens case every 3 months or so – ‘New quarter, new case’ is what I tell my patients to help them remember. When lenses are stored in the same case for six months, the risk of eye infection increases five-fold.
- Don’t sleep with contacts in, you’re risking infection.
- Don’t swim with contacts in, ditto.
What sort of risks are there to the eyes when proper contact lens hygiene is not followed?
Without good hygiene, the lenses can pick up bacteria that can permeate the corneal epithelium, a thin skin-like covering over the cornea. This may cause infection, abrasion or even lead to a corneal ulcer, a potentially dangerous condition that is not only painful, but can result in vision loss. If a child wearing contacts has eye pain or noticeable redness, have them remove the lenses and call your Optometrist immediately.
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