I discovered in the fourth grade that I was going to need to wear glasses regularly if I wanted to see anything. I was devastated, glasses were not as trendy as they are now a days and kids were quite harsh. The following year there was only one single thing I asked for for Christmas and that was contact lenses. I begged and pleaded with my parents to allow me to get them, promising I would be responsible and care for my eyes properly. Christmas morning came and I received a special note from my parents with an appointment slip attached… an appointed to see the optometrist for my contact lens fitting! Thankfully I had a passionate optometrist that made sure to fully educate me on the risks of contacts and educating me on how to care for my eyes. Fast forward a decade or so and here I am with a 9 year old daughter that received the same news as I in the 4th grade… that she will need glasses. And while she has shown no interest in contact lenses, I know soon enough it will be a topic of interest. So my question is… when’s the right time for children to get contact lenses?
Contact lenses are among the safest and most popular forms of vision correction. Did you know that nearly 41 million adults in the U.S. and 125 million people worldwide wear contact lenses? Wow! Contact lenses aren’t just for adults, many children can also reap the benefits from wearing contact lenses. Optometrists agree that most children between the ages of 10-12 are actually mature enough to wear and care for contact lenses properly. In some cases (such as myself when I was 9) children younger than the age of 10 are ready for independent contact lens wear. If you and your child decide together that they are ready, you must make sure to have comprehensive eye exams annually and stay in close contact with your child’s eye doctor to ensure appropriate and up-to-date clinical guidance based on individual eye health needs.
Clean and safe handling of contacts is one of the most important measures to take to protect vision.
When patients do not use contact lenses as directed by an eye doctor, the consequences can be dangerous and can even damage the eyes, potentially causing long-term problems with vision and eye health. According to the American Optometric Association’s 2015 American Eye-Q® Survey, more than half (59%) of Americans wear disposable contact lenses longer than the suggested duration. This bad habit can cause permanent eye damage from bacterial infections and oxygen deprivation. Cleaning and rinsing lenses with proper solutions is important to remove mucus, secretions, films or deposits that can build up during wearing and lead to bacterial growth if not removed properly. Sadly only 31% of consumers admit to using rewetting drops, and 16% use tap water to clean contact lenses instead of a multi-purpose solution. A recent study from the CDC found nearly one-third of contact lens wearers report going to the doctor for red or painful eyes related to wearing contact lenses.
The AOA recommends contact lens wearers maintain a consistent hygiene routine, including:
- Washing and drying hands before handling contact lenses
- Carefully and regularly using cleaning solution to rub the lenses with fingers and rinsing thoroughly before soaking lenses overnight in a sufficient multi-purpose disinfectant solution
- Storing lenses in the proper lens storage case and replacing your case every three months; in addition cases should be rubbed with clean fingers, rinsed with solution, dried with a tissue, stored upside down every night
- Using fresh solution to clean and store contact lenses—never re-use old solution
- Using products recommended by your eye doctor to clean and disinfect your lenses
- Removing contact lenses before exposing them to water.
Another fact to think about when your child gets into their teenage years and finds and interest in colored lenses. Optometrists are increasingly concerned about the illegal sale and use of decorative or non-corrective contact lenses, which are still classified as medical devices and pose the same potential safety and health risks as corrective contact lenses. Often times, decorative contact lenses are acquired illegally (through street vendors, flea markets, or beauty supply stores) without an eye doctor’s prescription and guidance. When purchased illegally, these contact lenses often don’t meet quality and safety standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is a major concern for optometrists. These lenses are not merely a fashion or costume accessory, decorative contact lens wearers who don’t follow the guidelines for use and wear can experience symptoms such as blurred or fuzzy vision; red or irritated eyes; pain in and around the eyes or, a more serious condition where the cornea becomes inflamed, also known as keratitis. These problems can lead to significant damage to the eye’s ability to function, and even irreversible sight loss.
The American Optometric Association represents approximately 39,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, and in 3,500 of those communities, they are the only eye doctors. Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States. Optometrists are the guardians of family eye and vision health, who take a leading role in an individual’s overall eye care, health and well-being; performing nearly 70 percent of first-time eye examinations for Americans. Optometrists are on the frontline of medical eye and vision care and provide a range of services including:
Performing comprehensive eye exams;
Diagnosing and treating eye diseases; and
Recognizing symptoms of systemic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.
In conducting comprehensive eye exams, doctors of optometry can often see indications of potential health problems that can affect the whole body.
Optometrists provide a lifetime of vision care and play a key role in a patient’s total quality of life. Proper vision can affect how well a person functions and succeeds in life. Poor vision has been linked to developmental problems. Yearly eye exams are important for eye and vision health.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.