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Are contact lenses right for your child? When might be a good time for your child to wear them?

LifeBridge Health eye specialists Samantha Feldman, M.D., and Danielle Natale, O.D., explain factors you should take into consideration:

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Babies and young children require specialty contact lenses after pediatric cataract surgery and to manage specific conditions like aphakia [the absence of the lens in one or both eyes], keratoconus (when the normally round cornea thins and develops a cone-like shape) and progressive myopia (nearsightedness).

“There are soft contact lenses; hard, or rigid gas permeable, contact lenses; multifocal contact lenses; and other specialty lenses,” says Feldman, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Krieger Eye Institute (KEI). “Some contact lenses are extended wear, and some are meant for daily use.”

The determination of when children can start replacing glasses with regular contact lenses is generally a shared decision between the parents, the child and the physician.

“It’s largely based on hygiene and independence,” Feldman says. “When can your child brush their teeth, put on deodorant or take a shower on their own without being reminded? Keeping up with their personal hygiene is a sign that they may be ready to take care of their contacts.”

Feldman says while it’s typically in the teen years when one is ready for the responsibility of handling contacts, “some children are very responsible and have great hygiene a little younger,” in which case it is up to the discretion of the parent as to whether they may be ready.

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Lifestyle should also factor into the decision.

“There can’t be any swimming, sleeping or showering in the contacts,” Feldman says. “Contact lenses can cause severe eye infections with permanent scaring and vision loss if not cared for properly.”

Among the most important aspects of contact lens wear readiness are responsibility and the ability to insert and remove lenses properly, says Natale, an optometrist at KEI.

“In cases where the contact is medically necessary, aphakia for example, then we can teach a parent or caregiver to insert and remove the contact lenses. But for routine contact lens wear, a person must be able to insert and remove lenses themselves,” Natale says. “Often, a child will be responsible enough for contact lens wear but can be a bit squeamish about inserting and removing the lenses.”

Be sure to ask your child’s eye doctor specific questions about whether contact lenses are a good option.

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Visit lifebridgehealth.org/kriegereye or call 410-601-2020 to learn more about KEI’s services.