Wearing contact lenses is a rite of passage and confidence booster for many kids and teens. For others, it may be a matter of necessity. According to Key-Whitman Eye Center’s Dallas Optometrist Amanda Hoelscher, O.D., “Some children with high prescriptions see better with contact lenses. They can also be a real difference-maker for young athletes looking for that competitive edge.”
With more than 20 years of experience treating patients of all ages, Dr. Hoelscher has fitted thousands of youth with contact lenses. But she won’t prescribe contacts for a child just because they want to wear contacts (OR their parents want it for them).
Dr. Hoelscher works closely with both parent and child to determine if and when the child is ready for contacts and whether contacts would be the right fit for the child’s needs.
Dr. Hoelscher offers advice for parents on gauging a child’s readiness for contact lenses.
7 Helpful Tips for Parents
If your child would like to transition from glasses to contacts, Dr. Hoelscher offers the following helpful tips:
1. Know and discuss the risks of improper lens care and wear.
According to Dr. Hoelscher, “Eye infections are the No. 1 risk associated with contact lenses. These infections are typically caused by poor hygiene, which means not washing hands before inserting and removing lenses or cleaning the lens case. Children need to understand that there can be long-term consequences from contact lens-related eye infections.”
To underscore the severity of eye infections, Dr. Hoelscher doesn’t shy away from pulling up online pictures of pseudomonas infections during contact lens consultations with kids.
“Pseudomonas infections come from water, and they’re not pretty. Neither are corneal ulcers. Kids need to know these eye conditions can lead to vision loss, be painful, and they’ll need to come see me everyday until the issue is healed or resolved,” Dr. Hoelscher says.
Watch how improper contact lens wear and care almost dashed this young Air Force veteran’s hopes to get LASIK eye surgery.
2. Keep in mind, age is just a number. Maturity matters most.
While parents typically start to consider contacts for children between the ages of 10 and 12, Dr. Hoelscher finds kids usually become interested around the age of 13. At the same time, she has fitted children as young as 5 with contacts and won’t recommend contacts for some young patients, because they’re not mature enough to wear and care for contacts properly.
As she explains, “In order for me to recommend contact lenses, a child must be able to properly insert and remove lenses, know how to clean and care for them, AND be able to perform those tasks even when they’re tired. They also need to be mature enough to always wash their hands before handling the lenses, without being prodded.”
3. Measure maturity with this simple test.
Parents need to remember that there will be many occasions when the child has to make decisions on their own. Being mature enough to remove a contact lens that is irritating their eye – without a parent telling them to do so – is key to preventing eye infections and corneal abrasions.
To determine whether a child is mature enough to wear contacts, Dr. Hoelscher asks parents to consider how well the child handles other responsibilities.
“If you’re reminding your child to wash their hands before they leave the restroom, or if they need to be reminded to brush their teeth, comb their hair and put their dirty dishes away, they probably aren’t mature enough to handle the responsibility of contact lens wear and care,” says Dr. Hoelscher.
4. If your child isn’t quite ready for contacts, challenge them to step up.
You have to look at the child overall and see if he or she completes tasks without being told over and over. When kids aren’t mature enough to handle simple tasks independently, Dr. Hoelscher believes contact lenses can be a good bartering tool for parents.
As she explains, “If a child is really motivated to get contacts lenses, then we can sit down and discuss how they need to step up with their responsibilities at home first. Then if they do a good job, we can revisit contact lenses in a few months.”
5. Opt for daily disposable contact lenses if possible.
Dr. Hoelscher offers a wide variety of contact lenses at her North Dallas eye care clinic, including monthly, bi-monthly and daily lenses. However, whenever feasible, she recommends daily disposable contact lenses. Daily lenses can significantly reduce the risk of eye infections, especially for kids.
Dr. Hoelscher explains the benefits of daily disposable contact lenses.
“In our practice 50 percent of our patients wear daily lenses, because from a hygiene standpoint, they are much better for you. You put them in the morning, then throw them out at the end of the day. You don’t need to worry about lens cleaning or pay for lens disinfectants.
“For kids, this accomplishes a couple of things. First, they have clean, new lenses in the eyes every day. Second, if a child is away from home and the lens is uncomfortable or their eye is red, they can just throw it a way. So it encourages them to remove the lens and get rid of it, which you wouldn’t do with a monthly lens,” Dr. Hoelscher says.
6. When daily lenses won’t do, make sure your child learns proper lens wear and care.
In cases where a child’s prescription is outside the parameters of a daily lens, then educating him or her about proper lens care and cleaning of a bi-monthly or monthly lens is essential. Finding an eye doctor who specializes in pediatric eye care will help ensure your child’s success.
According to Dr. Hoelscher, “Our staff is fantastic at the training. The child sits with someone trained to teach them how to insert and remove lenses and how to take care of them. It may take ten minutes working with that child. It might take an hour. But we’re going to spend the time and get the child where they feel like they can wear the contacts comfortably and feel good about it.”
Watch Dr. Hoelscher discuss contact lens wear and care on Good Morning Texas.
7. Schedule a pediatric contact lens consultation to explore options.
Every child and his or her circumstances are different. If you and your child would like to learn more about wearing contacts and determine whether he or she is mature enough to take the next step, schedule a consultation with your pediatric eye doctor to learn more.
Dr. Hoelscher loves helping kids enjoy the benefits of contact lenses while putting eye health first. To schedule an eye health exam or contact lens consultation in Dallas, give us a call at (214) 225-2577, or feel free to set up an appointment online here.