Back to School With Contact Lenses
Here are some pointers to help explain to parents that contact lenses are great for kids, too.
It's that time of year again, when children get their annual eye exams and head back to school. This presents the perfect opportunity for you to talk to parents and children about contact lenses as a great alternative to eyeglasses. After all, not all parents know that children can wear contact lenses successfully and many don't fully recognize their benefits.
Here's what you need to know to inform parents and children about contact lenses and answer any questions they have.
Kids Can Wear Contact Lenses
Children as young as 8 to 12 and teens 13 to 17 can successfully wear, care for and enjoy contact lenses, according to a recent study. Researchers surveyed 169 contact lens wearers (ages 8 to 17) and found they reported similar improvements in quality of life.1 Children and teens said they felt much better about their appearance and participating in activities. Given these findings, the researchers suggested that children ages 8 to 12 should be offered contact lenses as routinely as teens.
"Parents and doctors tend to think that 12 or 13 is the ‘magic age’ for contact lenses," says Kristi Kading, O.D., F.A.A.O., who specializes in pediatric optometry at Totem Lake Vision Center in Kirkland, Wash. "There's no concrete reason for this. It's just something that gets repeated and becomes ingrained. This study found that children and teens benefited equally from contact lens wear and were equally able to care for their lenses. That's made me more proactive in offering contact lenses to children."
Dr. Kading says that parents and kids usually are surprised when she suggests contact lenses. "Some go for it right away," she continues. "Others think about it for another year."
Christian P. Guier, O.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., first spreads the word about contact lenses with his employees' children. "My staff members have kids of all ages," he explains. "Employees see that I'm comfortable fitting the 9-year-old son of their coworker for contact lenses, so they feel comfortable talking to patients about fitting kids with contact lenses. They have first-hand experience they can share with parents and children."
Benefits of CLs Abound
Children enjoy wearing contact lenses for many of the same reasons adults like them. "Kids like the visual acuity and the way they feel. And they don't worry about their eyeglasses sliding down their noses, fogging up or getting smudged. They really appreciate these things," Dr. Guier says. Kids benefit from contact lenses in these unique ways:
■ Better sports performance. Contact lenses give kids better peripheral vision than eyeglasses and prevent teammates from accidentally grabbing and knocking them off their face. "Many kids actually remove their eyeglasses to avoid breaking them while playing sports," Dr. Kading says. "But they jeopardize optimal vision.
■ Improved confidence and self-esteem. "More children are telling me they want contact lenses for social reasons," Dr. Guier says. "They say that other kids poke fun at their eyeglasses. With contact lenses, kids have a special attitude – a confidence boost. They enjoy the benefits that adults do, and they like their new appearance."
■ Fewer misplaced eyeglasses. "Some doctors believe that if a child loses his eyeglasses, he'll lose his contact lenses, too. But I think the opposite is true," Dr. Kading explains. "Kids are more motivated to keep and take care of their contact lenses."
With children, the less contact lens care they have to contend with the better. Daily disposables, for example, are less likely to accumulate dirt and other debris that can cause eye irritation and other problems. Kids throw away daily disposables, such as Proclear 1 Day (CooperVision), at the end of the day and insert a fresh pair in the morning. So their parents don't have to worry about them cleaning and storing lenses. ClearSight 1 Day, CooperVision's UV-absorbing daily disposable lenses, are another great option for kids, and they provide the added benefit of sun protection.
"I look for a daily disposable for new, young contact lens wearers," Dr. Guier says. "All they have to do is get their hands squeaky clean before insertion and removal. They have no worries about cases, solutions, etc. The word daily is very clear, so there's no forgetting when to change lenses."
Moist, highly breathable 2-week lenses, such as Avaira (CooperVision), also are a viable option. "Two-week lenses were used in the contact lens study with kids and teens," Dr. Kading says. "I use a lot of daily disposables, and parents like that. But I'm comfortable knowing that kids can handle a 2-week lens as well. It seems like a high expectation, but kids prove time and again that they can be responsible and wear contact lenses successfully." ■
1. Walline JJ, Gaume A, Jones LA, et al. Benefits of contact lens wear for children and teens. Eye Contact Lens. 2007;33:317-321.