Are Contacts Safe for Kids?
Yes, contacts are safe for kids. The human eye can tolerate contact lenses at a very early age. In special cases, even infants are fitted with contacts, to overcome eye conditions such as congenital nystagmus.
A key factor in determining if contact lenses are safe for your child is evaluating how willing he or she is to wear contacts responsibly and take proper care of them.
Over-wearing contact lenses, especially sleeping while wearing contacts designed for daytime use only, can greatly increase the risk for contact lens-related eye problems.
Also, your child must demonstrate an ability to apply and remove the lenses without significant difficulty and to clean and disinfect the lenses with appropriate contact lens solutions after each use.
Often, a child's success in wearing contacts depends on how motivated he or she is to wear them. Even if you wear contact lenses yourself, don't assume your child wants to wear contacts. Some children are perfectly happy wearing eyeglasses and may not have an interest in contacts until they are young adults, if at all.
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At What Age Are Contacts Safe for Kids To Wear?
Many parents wonder when it's safe for their child to start wearing contacts. A study called the Contact Lenses in Pediatrics (CLIP) study that was conducted in 2008 found that children as young as 8 years old are capable of properly inserting, removing and caring for contact lenses and had no increased risk of contact lens-related eye problems compared with teenagers enrolled in the study.
Also, 83 percent of children ages 8 to 12 in the CLIP study said contact lenses were easy to take care of, and 92 percent chose to continue wearing contacts at the conclusion of the study.
Results from another study suggest contact lenses may have an additional benefit for young children they may boost self-esteem.
A total of 484 children ages 8 to 11 were enrolled in the Child Health Initiative to Encourage Vision Empowerment (ACHIEVE) study and were randomly assigned to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses for a period of three years. The study was conducted between September 2003 and October 2007 at five clinical centers in the United States.
At the end of the study period, all the children completed questionnaires that assessed their self-perceptions in a number of areas. Results suggested children's self-perceptions of their physical appearance, athletic competence and social acceptance are likely to improve with contact lens wear.
Proponents of contact lenses for children also point out that kids who wear contact lenses that block the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays may have a significantly lower lifetime exposure to UV radiation, which has been associated with eye problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration. So wearing contact lenses at an early age may help prevent certain eye problems later in life.
About the Author: Gary Heiting, OD, is senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 25 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry. His special interests include contact lenses, nutrition and preventive vision care. Connect with Dr. Heiting via Google+.
[Page updated February 2014]