The facts around children and contact lenses
I have always been short-sighted and have worn contact lenses for many, many years. My youngest daughter has also inherited my poor vision although luckily not to such an extent. She has worn glasses since she was about 14 and has recently added contact lenses to her management plan.
As a lens wearer, I know the amazing benefits of not having to worry about glasses breaking, about them being knocked off during exercise, about the cost and the changing fashions. But I also know the potential problems they can cause especially if, like me as a teenager, they are not looked after properly. So when my daughter asked if she could get some I was very aware of all the facts.
My most recent research shows how lenses have changed for the better since the early days of hard lenses and how much I abused them especially after a night out!
Tweens and Contact Lenses
If you have a young child who needs to wear glasses it is usually fairly straightforward and there are some gorgeous designs around at the moment. Having said that, sometimes contact lenses are the way forward, either through personal preference or if your child is involved in a sport where their glasses can be a hindrance. You can even swap between the two and Lynne has friends who buy enough contact lenses for their children to wear on the days they do sport but otherwise stick with glasses.
Either way, I was surprised to find that it is possible for very young children to wear contact lenses and there are no age restrictions in place. So if you feel your child would benefit from wearing them the only condition is that they are mature enough to take responsibility for them, to manage them and understand the risks involved if they don’t follow the guidelines. A good optician will advise and guide you and if you and your child feel it is the right way to go they can run a trial to see how they get on putting them in and taking them out safely.
Teens and Contact Lenses
As a teenager, I didn’t want to wear glasses and yet I wasn’t particularly great at caring for my lenses! Contact lenses weren’t as good then as they are today and the risk of injury was higher, but I do think that the teen years are the ones where it is most likely to go wrong as children become more independent and parents find it harder to keep tabs on how they are getting on with their lenses.
My daughter has managed well, but even so she has had one incident where she wore them all day and then went out to a party and wore them until the early hours. The next morning she had a very painful, watery eye which needed antibiotic drops and a week of no lenses.
Reusable or disposable Contact Lenses?
Many lenses need to be removed and stored to wear the next day, This involves thorough hand-washing and drying (due to potential bacteria in water), removing of the lenses, gentle cleaning as they are very fragile and then storing them overnight in a clean container to avoid infection or damage to the lens before they are reinserted. From my own experience, this is a really boring job and last thing at night teeth cleaning is quite enough for me! So for many teens (not all) this process quickly becomes a chore and, therefore, the temptation to cut corners increases.
Disposable Daily Lenses
After years of lens wearing myself, a few infections and a corneal scratch I have made the personal decision to opt for daily disposable lenses for me and my daughter. This means no need for daily cleaning as you simply pop them in the bin at the end of the day and put a new sterile pair in the next morning to remove the risk of contamination. It takes away the concerns about infection, but I have to say this is only because I got into bad habits and not everyone will!
Although this is a more expensive approach we get around it by buying my daughter a few pairs each week and she chooses when she most wants to wear them. I wear them every day because I am VERY short-sighted!
Of course, sometimes it works very well to use the reusable type of lenses and I am sure my daughter would have been responsible when she wasn’t too tired, but from my own experience, the temptation to be neglectful is always there. Maybe I shouldn’t assume she would be as lazy as I was as a teen, but sometimes you can’t forget it!
So they are a great option too as long as you understand the risks and if you opt for these then there are some lovely storage pots and travel kits available for younger wearers.
Whether your child wears glasses or lenses is a personal choice. If you decide on contact lenses then there is a lot of help out there. You simply need to ring a couple of reputable opticians and have a chat to see what advice they give and what they offer. The overriding advice seems to be that as long as your child is mature enough to manage and care for their lenses then any age is appropriate. If you go through a good optician they always insist on regular check-ups and any concerns will be picked up quickly.
My only extra advice would be to keep a close eye (no pun intended) on your child’s lens care, especially as they get older, and do not buy them from an online supplier without getting the proper after-care, because long-term misuse of contact lenses can lead to some pretty terrible outcomes.
Contact Lens Tracker Apps
You can also download a lens tracker app for your child if you decide to go with 2 weekly, monthly or extended wear lenses. The app can be downloaded onto your phone or theirs, and are an easy way to keep track of when to change their lenses for a new set. Here are two of the free ones available.
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