I wear contacts, so I understand
the appeal of them. I started wearing them as a teenager and remember the joy
of not having to wear my glasses every day.
However, it seems that children
are wearing contact lenses at younger and younger ages. After my friend’s 10-year-old
daughter recently had a bad experience with trying to use contacts, I started
researching childrens' use of these lenses a little more.
How old should my child be?
Most eye-care professionals
agree that recommending contacts for children under the age of 12 or 13 years increases the risks associated with contact use. Age isn't the only factor, however. Consider the maturity and responsibility level of each child.
Medical devices, not fashion accessories
First off, anyone getting
contacts should understand that contacts require proper care by the wearer and
supervision by the eye-care provider. The wearer must also be mindful that the
eye can be seriously injured if contact lenses are used improperly. The most
frequent complications are infection and eye abrasions (scratches), but more
serious and worrisome is the development of an ulceration on the surface of
the eye, which can result in permanent vision loss.
Eye scratches (corneal abrasions)
can happen even with normal insertion or removal of a contact lens. I’ve done
it and it hurts—a lot! However, the majority of complications from contact
lens use can be avoided with proper care and technique.
Good contact care and technique
your hands thoroughly before touching your contacts, whether you’re
inserting them or removing them—or even if you’re just bringing your hands up
anywhere near your eyes.
Use products approved for contact lens care and disinfecting. (I’ve
seen people take a contact lens out, suck on it a bit, and then stick it back in
their eye. Not a good idea.)
use of contacts in eyes that are red, painful, or itchy. That’s usually a
sign that something is wrong in the eye, and contacts could aggravate the
problem. Sometimes, taking a day or two off from wearing your contact lens will
allow the problem to clear up. If it worsens, an evaluation by a healthcare
provider may be necessary.
girls, throw away out-of-date cosmetics such as mascara and eyeliner—contaminated
makeup and contacts do not mix. Put on your makeup after putting in your contacts.
keep lenses in for too long—i.e., don’t sleep with them in. Take them out
before bed. Most disinfectants state that lenses need to soak for at least
6 to 8 hours. In fact, most eye professionals discourage use of extended-wear
lenses in children and teens. The risk for corneal ulceration is greater
with prolonged wearing of contact lenses.
your child. Don’t assume that just because they’ve taken this big step of
getting contacts that they will do everything perfectly. It’s a good idea
to check in periodically and remind them of appropriate contact lens care.