Teen vision: Time for contacts?
Most refractive errors are easily corrected with contact lenses — even astigmatism. In most cases, teens will see just as well with contact lenses as they do with glasses, or even better. Contact lenses offer clearer peripheral vision and less distortion than glasses because the contact lens sits directly on the eye, and there is no frame to limit vision.
Teens involved in sports especially will appreciate contact lenses. Wearing contacts for recreational sports gives teens clearer vision and allows them to wear needed protective eyewear over contact lenses. Sure, there's a chance a contact lens will be dislodged or lost during sports play, but replacing a contact lens is much less expensive than replacing an entire pair of glasses.
Allowing teens to choose contact lenses over glasses for vision correction may prompt them to wear sunglasses more frequently as well. They will need to carry only a pair of sunglasses, rather than prescription eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses. Protecting the eyes from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays is important in the long run for healthy vision.
Disposable Contact Lenses Make Lens Care Easy
Many parents are concerned about the amount of care involved in wearing contact lenses. Today, most care systems are quite simple. And daily disposable contact lenses can eliminate the need for lens care products altogether.
Another parental concern is teen responsibility for contact lenses. Most teens have the maturity to wear and care for contact lenses, but you know your teen best. Discuss your concerns both with your teen and your eye care practitioner. If your eye doctor feels your teen isn't ready, contact lenses won't be prescribed. Contact lens wear should be discontinued if your teen isn't following wear or care guidelines.
When teenagers bear some of the financial responsibility for their contacts, they often value contact lens wear more highly. Consider requiring your teen to contribute part or all of the cost of contact lenses, including the cost of the contact lens exam, the lenses themselves, contact lens solutions and replacement of lost or torn lenses.
Contact Lenses: Self-Esteem Builder For Teens
Possibly the greatest benefit of wearing contact lenses is the significant jump in self-confidence your teen may experience.
In recent research called the Adolescent and Child Health Initiative to Encourage Vision Empowerment (ACHIEVE) study,* investigators looked into the psychological effects that contact lens wear had on children and young teenagers who switched from glasses to contacts for a period of three years.
The researchers found that contact lenses significantly improve how children and teens feel about their physical appearance, acceptance among friends and ability to play sports. Girls especially experienced a boost in self-esteem from wearing contacts. Contact lenses even make some kids more confident about their academic performance, according to the study's lead investigator.
Contacts That Change Eye Color
Color contact lenses are a fun way for teens to change their appearance. Lightly tinted lenses can enhance or modify your current eye color by, for example, making light blue eyes a more vibrant blue or changing blue eyes to aquamarine. Colored contacts with opaque tints can change your eyes to a completely different color — from brown to blue, green or violet, for example.
Special effect contact lenses can even make teen eyes look like cats' eyes or vampire eyes for Halloween parties or other special occasions.
Color and special effect contact lenses can be worn by people who don't need vision correction. However, you still need a prescription for these lenses, because they are classified by the FDA as medical devices.
With any contact lens wear, your eye doctor must first examine your eyes to make sure they are healthy and that you have adequate tears to wear contacts successfully. A fitting must then be performed before your doctor can issue a final contact lens prescription.
Contact lenses typically are a healthy, safe, fun and relatively inexpensive way for teens to start making decisions for themselves, with a little guidance from you and your eye care provider.
*The ACHIEVE Study was sponsored by the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Institute.
Gretchyn Bailey also contributed to this article.
Page updated January 2021