Kids and Contacts

When it comes to children wearing contact lenses, there are certain questions that arise. Among them: At what age can children begin wearing contacts safely? When do they become responsible enough to accept and handle the regimen necessary for maintaining their lenses?

According to the Contact Lenses In Pediatrics (CLIP)* study, children as young as eight can be successfully introduced to contact lens wear. Colleges of optometry in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Texas jointly conducted the study. Their findings refute the prevailing opinion that children should not be offered the option of wearing contacts until 13 years of age.

One part of the CLIP study was to fit a group of 84 children, beginning at age 8, with contact lenses and provide the proper training for insertion and removal. They were re-examined at points one-week, one-month, and three-months from the initial visit to assess their progress and check for any problems. With only three non-serious incidents reported (and quickly corrected), the children demonstrated their ability to wear and take care of their lenses at the same level as teens and adults.

Of course, proper motivation was important in keeping the kids on a successful track throughout the duration of the study (and, hopefully, beyond). Besides the eye physicians’ instruction and training, other factors were certainly involved. Parental support, reinforcement, and (if they are contact wearers themselves) setting a good example were key. Most importantly, self-motivation among the group was just as strong. After receiving their contact lenses, a majority of those in the survey expressed a greater confidence with and enjoyment of various activities they participated in due to the freedom from eyeglasses. Also, for a child, having to adjust to wearing eyeglasses can be a traumatic experience, since their perception of how their peers will view them oftentimes takes on a negative aspect. Self-esteem was boosted when they equated wearing contacts with enhancing their appearance.

Corroboration for the above findings was offered by another study, the Pediatric Refractive Error Profile (PREP)*, conducted over a three-year period at five US clinical facilities. In a random group of 484 youngsters-ranging in age from 8 to 11–PREP measured three factors related to contact lens wear: satisfaction, appearance, and activities. Their results mirrored CLIP, seeing positive data among the children in as little as one month, and added to the building evidence that pre-teens are perfectly capable of embracing the use and maintenance of contacts and reap the benefits for a better quality of life.

*Both CLIP and PREP were administered with sponsorship and support by VISTAKON, a division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.