There's more to healthy vision than 20/20 eyesight!

Contact Lenses and Children

For many parents, a common question is “When is my child old enough to wear contact lenses?” Our doctors answer that question by considering the child's:

  • Current visual situation: refractive condition, binocularity, vision development
  • Motivation
  • Maturity

The doctor weighs these factors and discusses them with the child and parent(s). The type of lens (soft or rigid), modality of wear (daily disposable, periodic disposable or single vial lenses) and reason for fitting (corrective, preventive and/or therapeutic) are considered. Of course, the doctor must discuss whether the child is able to take responsibility for their own eye health and treat contact lenses appropriately.

Once the decision has been made to go forward with contact lenses, trial lenses will be inserted onto the child's eyes for evaluation. Assuming the lenses are well tolerated and adequate fit and vision can be attained, our staff schedules a contact lens dispensing where the specifics of lens care will be discussed in detail. Before any child leaves our office, he/she must demonstrate total understanding of:

  • Insertion and removal of the lenses
  • How to handle lens problems and emergencies
  • Proper hygiene
  • Contact lens solutions for their lenses
  • Wearing schedule
  • Follow-up care

Contact Lenses for Sports

Many children are active in sports. Contact lenses offer several advantages over glasses for these activities. Contacts will not fog up, get streaked with perspiration or get knocked off like glasses. They also provide better peripheral vision than glasses, which is important for nearly every sport. There are even contact lenses with special tints to help your child see the ball easier. For sports, soft contact lenses are usually the best choice. They are larger and fit closer to the eye than rigid gas permeable lenses, so there is virtually no chance they will dislodge or get knocked off during competition.

Control of Myopia Progression

Nearsightedness, is often progressive and affects nearly 30 million Americans. It might even affect you! This common refractive condition definitely has a genetic link, but is heavily influenced by the environmental stress of near work such as reading, studying, computer use, hand games and the lack of outdoor time. In addition to weakening vision, myopia also changes the physical structure of the eye. It can steepen the front surface of the eye (cornea) and/or stretch the retina (axial elongation). These changes increase the risk of future eye disease. It is one of the leading causes of blindness around the world and has a direct association with retinal detachments and glaucoma.

Current research by Earl Smith, III OD, PhD (Optometry & Vision Science September 2011 - Volume 88 - Issue 9 - pp 1029-1044 doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e3182279cfa) has altered our thinking with regard to myopia development and effective treatments to reduce progression. Through extensive research Dr. Smith found that peripheral defocus (peripheral light forming an image behind the retina) triggers growth of the eye in a way that leads to increasingly blurry central vision. The signals for this growth are in the peripheral retina. This axial elongation of the eye increases myopia and promotes myopia progression.

Bifocal contact lenses have been shown to slow the progression of myopia (see www.myopiaprevention.org). By creating a ring of increased power around properly focused central vision, bifocal lenses minimize peripheral defocus, a very important “growth signal” for the eye. As a result, eyes fitted with bifocal lenses are much less susceptible to myopia progression. Our doctors recommend bifocal soft and rigid contact lenses to help control the rate of myopia progression in children.

Orthokeratology and Children

Orthokeratology (also known as corneal reshaping, OK, ortho-K) is the process of wearing a custom designed contact lens only while sleeping. The lens is removed each morning and the result is good vision all day with no contacts or glasses. As a side benefit the procedure also slows down the progression of myopia in most studies (see www.myopiaprevention.org).

Children are excellent candidates for orthokeratology because they are motivated, quick to learn how to care for the lenses and respond quickly to the treatment. Ortho-K lenses are also great for kids who participate in sports activities, because they do not have to worry about losing their contact lenses while they are active.

Ortho-K is normally used to allow a myopic person to have clear vision during the day without the need for corrective lenses. The effect is totally reversible and is not permanent. If lens wear is stopped, the myopia will return. It is a safe alternative to LASIK or other refractive surgery procedures that are not even available for children.