Life

Ask the Expert: At what age can children start wearing contact lenses?

Research into the benefits of contact lens wear for children and teens found that contacts significantly improved their quality of life, says Dr Nigel Bes of Specsavers

Q: MY 10-year-old daughter has just been told she needs to wear glasses and she's very upset about it. At what age can she start wearing contact lenses?

A: Dr Nigel Best, clinical spokesperson for Specsavers (specsavers.co.uk), says: "According to a report, younger people can be up to four times more likely to want to try contact lenses than adults, and a study looking at attitudes towards contact lens wear found 78 per cent of child spectacle wearers would be interested in trying contact lenses.

"The good news is there's no specific age at which a child is old enough to wear contact lenses. In theory, children can wear them from any age, even as newborn babies if needed – if a newborn baby is born with a congenital cataract, the baby's natural lens will be removed within a few months of birth and the baby will wear a contact lens until they're old enough to have a lens implanted. Thankfully, those cases are rare.

"Any decision on whether (or when) to first fit a child with contact lenses is based on a number of factors, with an optician often considering the three ms: Maturity, motivation and mum.

"A child's level of maturity is not always related to their age; we've all known nine-year-olds who behave in a more responsible manner than some 15-year-olds. The child's ability to listen and comprehend the advice given to them is paramount.

"Important for success in any new contact lens wearer is a high level of motivation. This can help overcome many obstacles, such as difficulty inserting and removing lenses, initial lens awareness, and even fear.

"Involvement of parents is very important to successful contact lens wear in young children. An engaged and informed parent, who plays an important role reinforcing and supervising how the child looks after the lenses, is crucial.

"Research into the benefits of contact lens wear for children and teens found that contact lenses significantly improved their quality of life, so it's always worth a parent having a chat with their optician if their child is interested.

"Your eyes can reveal a lot about your general health and so it's really important to have regular eye tests – once every two years, or more often if recommended by your optometrist."

:: September 24-30 is Eye Health Week. For more information about eye tests and to find your nearest branch, visit specsavers.co.uk

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