Children and Contact Lenses
Yes! Children can wear contact lenses. The visual benefits that children with refractive errors derive from contact lenses are the same as those for adults. Children can be prescribed contact lenses for the correction of refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. Orthokeratology can also be performed successfully on myopic children, although this does require a very high level of hygiene, care and compliance. Children who want to wear contact lenses for sport or for cosmetic reasons can usually be examined, counseled and fitted like an adult albeit with parental guidance at about 8 or 9 years of age.
A recent study from the USA indicates that contact lenses significantly improve how children feel about their appearance and participation in activities compared to spectacles. 71.2 % of the children stated that they liked wearing contact lenses a little better or a lot better than glasses, while 95.9 % of the children said they loved or liked to wear contact lenses during sports. Almost 60 % of the children felt their sporting performance was much better or better while wearing contact lenses. The study went on to conclude that children derive a number of benefits from contact lenses which leads to greater satisfaction with their vision correction.
Children under the age of 7 (including infants and babies) are generally only fitted with contact lenses if there is a specific indication. The most common reason for paediatric contact lens fitting is unilateral or bilateral aphakia. Surgical removal of the crystalline lens results in aphakia and the most common reason for performing this procedure is congenital cataract. Patients with aphakia will have an extremely high degree of hyperopia (long-sightedness). Contact lenses are definitely the preferred option for the management of aphakia, as aphakic spectacles are incredibly thick and so very difficult for a baby or young infant to wear. Infants born with congenital cataracts should have them surgically removed as soon as possible (preferably before 3 months of age) with contact lenses then being fitted about one week post-operatively. Rigid gas permeable contact lenses are usually the best option for the contact lens management of the paediatric aphake.
Other indications for paediatric contact lens fitting include high myopia and high hyperopia (the latter without aphakia), unilateral ametropia (where the baby or young infant has a significant refractive error only in one eye) and corneal irregularity (usually as a result of trauma).