How old is old enough for contacts?

Photo courtesy of Valley Eyecare Center

Photo courtesy of Valley Eyecare Center

In our last blog, Dr. Melissa Barnett shared some great ways to help children wear their glasses. These excellent points are sure to help increase glasses wear, but there is a good chance that the day will come when your child will decide to hit you up for contacts.

At what age is it appropriate to consider contacts?

Well, in our practice, age is nothing but a number. What really counts is the maturity of the child (i.e. personal hygiene), the willingness of the parent to play a supporting role and the child’s needs. As such, your optometrist might ask you and your child a few questions to help make that determination. For example, we might ask if the kid is mature enough to brush their teeth without being asked. Or, if he or she is good about keeping their room clean without being asked. Hey, I know what you are thinking, this probably rules out 95 percent of kids (and adults) but we have to start somewhere.

Why might my child need contacts?

New studies show that measures of self-esteem increase significantly in contact lens wearing teens and children. Additionally, a number of contacts lens brands offer ultraviolet (UV) protection. While I always encourage children to wear sunglasses, any form of UV protection is welcome, as UV exposure is known to cause certain eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration. We also have to consider if the child plays sports. Contacts are great at improving peripheral vision and image stability and one can imagine what a difference contacts can make on an athlete’s performance.

Okay. What else do I need to know?

Once you have succumbed to your child’s incessant begging, you have to determine the safest and most fool-proof way to achieve a happy and safe experience with contacts. I can say firsthand, daily disposable contacts are almost always my first choice. My little brother started wearing contacts at 14 year old, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure he was ready so I started him with daily disposable lenses. As the name suggests, you chuck them on a daily basis. Thus, no solutions, no cleaning and fewer worries. The main concern we have is keeping our children from accidentally falling asleep in their lenses. Certainly, some children have prescriptions that are not available as daily disposables, but it is rare to find a young person who cannot be a contact lens wearer with a little work. In the end, contact lenses can be a safe and useful method for vision correction in children, provided that they follow the rules explained by their optometrists.

~ David C. Ardaya, O.D.
California Optometric Association

One thought on “How old is old enough for contacts?

  1. Great article David! I absolutely agree- daily disposable contacts are the simplest, healthiest and most comfortable option for first time wearers. I personally find a lower incidence of irritation and infections in my daily disposable wearers, and they tend to be the best option for patients who suffer from ocular allergies as well.

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