Glasses or Contacts: Which Are Better for Kids?

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Kids with vision problems may ask for contact lenses instead of glasses. They have many reasons for asking. Some may not like the way they look in glasses or worry that other kids will make fun of them. Some may want contacts for participating in sports or other school activities. Others think that contacts will make them feel more grown up.

If your child is asking for contact lenses, should you acquiesce? It depends mostly on how mature your child is. Before you allow your child to get contacts, you should gauge her ability to understand the importance of taking care of contact lenses and strictly follow the optometrist's instructions.

What Is the Best Age for Contact Lenses?

Most optometrists do not recommend contact lenses for children younger than 10. Approximately one-quarter of optometrists believe a child must attain the age of 13 or 14 before they are ready for contacts. However, just over half think it is appropriate to introduce a child to contact lenses between the ages of 10 and 12. Only about 12% of optometrists think it is proper for a child younger than age eight or nine to receive contact lenses.

Age is a useful guideline, but the real determining factor is how mature and responsible your child is. As a parent, you are best suited to make this determination because you observe your child's behavior on a daily basis. Does your child follow directions well? Is he proactive about personal hygiene? Or is your child absent-minded or neglectful in caring for himself and his belongings? If so, he may need to gain more maturity before contacts become a reasonable option.

What Are the Different Types of Contacts?

There are many types of contact lenses. The traditional, permanent type that needs cleaning on a daily basis can be either rigid or soft. The rigid ones are typically gas permeable to allow air to circulate. These are usually more durable, less expensive, and provide clearer vision, but are less comfortable to wear. Soft contacts are more comfortable and easier to adjust, but they may be more prone to tearing than rigid contacts.

Disposable contacts are a more recent innovation. They are worn once and then thrown away, which means they do not need to be cleaned at all. Some disposable contacts are only intended to be worn once a day, while others can be worn continuously for up to two weeks. A selection of the latter type of disposable contacts can be seen on this webpage: . Optometrists may not recommend disposable contacts for young patients. If they do, they are more likely to recommend the ones disposed of daily so that your child does not have to sleep in her contacts and gains practice in placing them in the eye and removing them. Keep in mind that if your child gets disposable lenses, you will have to order new ones on a regular basis.

What Are the Risks of Contact Lenses?

It is essential for your child to follow the optometrist's instructions in cleaning the contacts on a daily basis or disposing of them on schedule. Your child should not wear his contacts for longer stretches at a time than recommended. Failure to comply with instructions could lead to irritation or infection of the eye. Contacts can also cause injuries such as corneal abrasions that are extremely painful and could potentially damage vision permanently. Although contact wearers of any age can experience injuries of this nature, they are more common in new users. Your child should remove contacts immediately if he has eye symptoms and always keep a pair of glasses as a backup.

What Are the Benefits of Contacts?

Students who participate in sports and other activities may find contacts easier to cope with than glasses. When your child is ready for contacts, they may help her to improve her self-esteem, especially if she has received negative attention from classmates over her glasses. However, neither you nor your child should let peer pressure sway your decision over when to get contacts if your child is not yet ready.

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