When I was a kid, I didn't have much of a choice. I was very near sighted and had to wear glasses. Contacts were available, but at that time, these lenses were much thicker than they are now and they required daily cleaning, bi-weekly disinfection and a weekly enzyme cleaning. When I entered high school my parents purchased soft lenses for me. They were expensive, so the fear of losing one was very real and the daily cleaning was a chore. But for me it opened up a completely different world where I didn't have to rely on glasses, especially in the many sports I played. When my children turned out to follow in their mother's near-sighted footsteps I didn't have any idea when was the right time to introduce contacts.
After the late 1980s, optometrists rarely prescribed contact lenses to children until they were at least 16 years old. The contact lenses worked out only for children with eyes that produced enough tears to keep the soft contacts wet in the eye, otherwise they had a tendency to dry out and become uncomfortable. With rigid ("hard") gas permeable lenses, comfort was much better, but there was one problem: These contacts can pop out of the eye easily when kids are playing contact sports or otherwise jarring the body regularly, so they would often become lost.
Today, there are many types of contact lenses available and more children no younger than 8 years of age are being fitted with these lenses. The major concern has been the amount of oxygen that eyes will get during the day when they are wearing soft contact lenses. Soft lenses don't allow as much oxygen to get to the eye as rigid gas permeable lenses, but they are more comfortable than any other lens. With the creation of daily disposable soft contacts, a solution has presented itself. These lenses are very thin and comfortable. There is no need to clean or disinfect them because one just throws them away at the end of the day and puts on a fresh pair in the morning. Because they require so little maintenance is has eliminated the concern that a child would be irresponsible about caring for their contacts.
When my son turned 13, I thought introducing daily contacts would be something he would benefit from for both sports and everyday use. It didn't even occur to me to ask about my 8 year old daughter. The ophthalmologist however pointed out that if she was emotionally mature enough to deal with putting something into her eyes on a daily basis, daily disposable soft contact lenses would benefit her as well. The results have been good so far and kids with contact lenses have better visual acuity than those wearing glasses. They are especially helpful for kids who participate in sports. And the cost trade off is equitable since it eliminates the need for expensive sports goggles that fog and cause discomfort. In addition, self-esteem has always been an issue when children need corrective vision. Many kids get teased for having glasses, so contact lenses may help with their confidence.
So now, if a child, eight or older, can put the lenses in correctly and take them out at night, they can wear them. Initially, regular check-ups are recommended to determine if the lenses are causing any problems and then only annual check-ups are required. My children tend to use them selectively, trading them off with their glasses. But for them, unlike me, they now have the option to see the world without their glasses.
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