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Contact Lenses for Children

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KEY POINTS

  • Contact lenses are small, curved pieces of plastic placed in your child’s eyes to help correct vision problems caused by an abnormal shape of the eye.
  • Contacts come as soft lenses and gas permeable (GP) lenses. You can also get disposable contact lenses that your child wears for a short period of time and then throws away and replaces with new ones. Your eye care provider can help you decide if contact lenses are right for your child, and which kind to get.

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What are contact lenses?

Contact lenses are placed in your eyes to help correct vision problems. They are small, curved pieces of plastic shaped to fit your eyes. Contact lenses float on top of a thin layer of tears on the cornea, which is the clear outer layer on the front of the eye. Contact lenses can correct most of the vision problems that glasses correct. They can also correct some problems that glasses cannot.

When are they used?

Your child’s attitude toward glasses can affect her school performance and self-image.

Contact lenses may be better than eyeglasses if your child plays sports where glasses could break or slip. Also, contacts give better side vision than glasses do. Your child may want to wear contact lenses because she does not like how she looks with glasses, or refuses to wear glasses.

Contact lenses may provide better vision than glasses for your child if he is very nearsighted or has corneas damaged by disease or injury. Infants and toddlers with certain eye problems may be prescribed contact lenses.

Contact lenses may not be right for your child if he has:

  • Asthma, allergies, thyroid problems, or uncontrolled diabetes
  • An eye disease that affects the surface of the eye
  • Trouble being responsible and taking care of things like cleaning

You should also consider that your child’s vision will change as he grows, and contacts will need to be replaced often.

What are the main types of contact lenses?

Disposable contact lenses

Disposable contact lenses are the type of lens usually prescribed for children under the age of 13. Disposable contacts may be used for one day to one month, depending on the lens. Then you throw them away. For daily disposable lenses, your child puts in new lenses every morning and discards them at night. Children may try to wear the lenses longer than the recommended time or reuse the lens. Doing this greatly increases the risk of eye irritation or serious eye infection.

The advantages of disposable lenses are:

  • They are comfortable and easier to care for than regular soft contacts.
  • If a lens is lost or torn, you almost always have an extra lens on hand. You do not have to wait for a new contact lens to be ordered.
  • They can be a good choice if your child will only wear contacts for special events or sports, rather than wearing contacts all the time.

The main disadvantage is that disposable lenses cost more over time than other kinds of contact lenses.

Soft contact lenses

Soft lenses are made of material that absorbs fluid, and are very flexible. They are usually more comfortable than GP lenses, and your child can adjust to wearing them more easily. They are also less likely to fall out than GP lenses.

The disadvantages of soft contact lenses include:

  • Soft lenses must be cleaned and sterilized carefully. You need to buy cleaning and storing solutions for soft lenses, and make sure that your child uses them.
  • Soft lenses can be more expensive than GP lenses.
  • Children who wear soft contact lenses may be more likely to get eye infections than those who wear GP lenses.

Gas permeable contact lenses

Gas permeable (GP) lenses are made from a harder plastic than disposable or soft lenses. GP lenses have the following advantages over soft lenses:

  • They may correct vision better than soft lenses do, especially for children with a cornea that is scarred or has an uneven shape.
  • Allergic reactions to lens care solutions are less common. Unlike soft lenses, GP lenses do not absorb liquids.
  • GP lenses may cost less than soft lenses over time because they last longer and can be polished and reground if your child damages or outgrows them.

The main disadvantage to GP lenses is that they are harder to get used to than soft lenses.

How can my child get contact lenses?

Your child needs a thorough eye exam by an eye doctor who will:

  • Measure the curvature of the cornea, check the position of your child’s eyelids, and check the health of your child’s eye and eyelids.
  • Suggest the best kind of lenses for your child.
  • Teach your child how to put in and take out his contact lenses.
  • Review with your child how to care for his lenses.
  • Check your child’s eyes regularly. Your child should have checkups of his eyes and lenses as recommended by your eye care provider. If your child has any problems, talk about them with your child’s eye care provider.
Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/wilmer/
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-09-22
Last reviewed: 2016-10-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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