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Contact Lenses in Children: A Good or Bad Choice?

Contacts and Children While contact lenses are safe for most adults, there is some question about their safety for children.

Typically an optometrist will not prescribe contact lenses to children unless they are 12 years old or older. However, newer research suggests that younger children may be able to handle contact lenses and use them in a safe and healthy manner.

A recent study at Ohio State University of 169 children compared the use of contact lenses in children aged 8 to 12 and children aged 13 to 17. The study, named the Contact Lens in Pediatrics (CLIP) study, showed younger children, including those age 8 to 12, were just as competent and able to use contact lenses as their older peers.

This study confirms the results of an earlier study, which suggests that children between the ages of 8 and 12 are responsible and able to handle certain types of contact lenses. The researchers for this study used disposable lenses.

None of the study participants used contact lenses before the study. Researchers provided all participants with a three-month supply of soft disposable contact lenses. Researchers showed all study participants how to place the contact lens in the eye correctly and how to preserve their eye health when using the lenses.

Quality of Life Improved by Contact Lenses
The study also asked children taking part in the study to fill out a quality of life survey to evaluate the effects of contact lenses on children. The results of this study showed that most children reported their quality of life when wearing contact lenses excellent, suggesting children are eager to take advantage of the contact lens phenomenon.

The questions asked included how much children enjoyed wearing lenses and how difficult they noticed using contact lenses seemed compared with eye glasses. Most of the scores suggested that children from both groups were more satisfied wearing contact lenses then glasses. This may mean that children wearing contact lenses instead of eyeglasses may have a higher self-esteem and improved spirit simply by having the choice of wearing disposable contact lenses.

Many of the teens in the study also commented that wearing contact lenses made it easier to engage in everyday activities and sports, and made them feel more at ease when around their peers.

It is important to note that appearances were not the primary reason most children participating in the study wanted to wear contact lenses. While some did report improved self-esteem, this was largely due to their increased ability to enter sports conveniently. Most found contact lenses more convenient than glasses.

The one catch. Children's vision tends to change quickly. If optometrists start offering contact lenses to children and teens, they should do so in a shorter supply, say six months instead of one year. This will allow the opportunity for reevaluation to ensure the child's prescription remains correct while using the contact lenses.

The bottom line is this. Children age 8 and older seem capable of taking care of contact lenses and wearing them correctly. If it improves their quality of life, why not let them try them out?

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