Contact Lenses for Teenagers
Many teens have vision problems that require corrective lenses, but often, names like "nerd" and "four-eyes" come to mind when they see themselves in glasses. Contact lenses can be a great solution for many teenagers, improving their vision while also bolstering their self-esteem and self-confidence.
Contact lenses can also be very helpful for teens that are active in sports. Contacts are less cumbersome than glasses and are less likely to be damaged during play.
Age and responsibility
Many parents wonder how old their child must be to wear contact lenses, but the real factor to be considered is not age, but responsibility. There is no age requirement for contacts; they can even be prescribed for babies and young children. What contact lenses do require, however, is diligent, daily care, and not all teenagers are mature enough to handle this. Your eye care professional can help you decide whether your teen is ready for contact lenses.
Despite being somewhat infamous for their irresponsibility, many doctors report that teenagers are often better at caring for their contact lenses than adults. After years of wearing contacts, many adults become careless or lazy, while teens tend to take the responsibility more seriously.
Getting contact lenses for your teen
Even if your teen already has a prescription for eyeglasses, he or she will need to see their eye care professional for a contact lens fitting. In all states in the U.S., an ophthalmologist or a optometrist can provide this service, in some states an optician can as well.
During the exam, the teenager's eyes will be measured so that contacts with an appropriate diameter and base curve can be prescribed. The doctor will also examine the overall health of the eyes and determine what material, brand, and type of lenses would be best for the patient. Your teen will be shown how to insert and remove the lenses, and will receive care and cleaning instructions.
Contact lens prescriptions are valid for at least one year in the United States, as required by federal law. Some states have laws that extend this expiration date even further. Once the prescription has expired, your teen must visit their eye doctor again for an exam, so that the doctor can make sure the lenses have not caused any damage to the eyes.
Contact lenses can be purchased many different places including local optical shops, warehouse stores, online, by phone, by mail order, and through your eye care professional's office. All retailers are required by U.S. law to sell only to customers with a prescription, and to sell only the brand of contacts specified on that prescription. Do not buy from anyone who is willing to ignore this law, as they are likely cutting corners elsewhere as well. You may find yourself with a product that is unsafe, expired, or not FDA-approved.
Care, comfort, and safety
Today, caring for contact lenses requires a minimal amount of supplies, often just a case and a bottle of multi-purpose solution. When cared for properly, contact lenses pose only minimal safety risks. You can reduce the chances of complications by reminding your teen to cleantheir lenses every night (if they are not using daily disposables), and by making sure they know that they should never share lenses with anyone. It is also important that your teen use their lenses as directed, only wearing them overnight if the lenses are specifically approved for that purpose, and replace them as often as stated in the instructions.
Comfort is another concern many parents and teens have, but modern, soft contact lenses are actually very comfortable. Rigid gas-permeable lenses are less comfortable initially, so if an eye problem makes these special lenses necessary, it will likely take your teen some time to get used to them, and they may want to wear their glasses part-time. New hybrid lenses are available which combine a rigid gas-permeable center with a soft outer ring for better comfort. If your teen requires gas-permeable lenses, consider asking your eye care professional about this option.
Often teens are interested in special-effects lenses, such as those that change the wearers eye color or create the appearance of cat eyes. These lenses are just as safe and effective as standard lenses, but will likely cost more, and may not be an available if your teen requires has a special prescription. Your eye care professional can tell you if this is an option for your teen.
LASIK and other refractive surgery
Throughout the teenage years, the eyes are constantly changing. For this reason, surgical vision correction is not an option until the patient is in their mid-twenties, when the eyes finally "settle" into a final prescription. If LASIK or a similar procedure was performed before that point, the results could be undone very quickly as the patient matured.
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