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Food & Health

Should Your Child Be Wearing Contacts?

Are you putting your child’s eyesight at risk by introducing contact lenses to them at a tender age? Let’s find out.

When we think of contact lenses, kids hardly or never come to mind. As parents, we would definitely prefer our children to be using spectacles, if they need to. But for those who are considering to allow your child (below 13 years of age) to make the switch from spectacles to lenses, here’s what you should consider.

Is your child responsible? Do they do their homework without being asked? Are they able to keep their room clean? If your answer is no, then perhaps your child is not ready to dive into the world of contact lenses.

Responsibility is key
Think about whether your child can learn how to properly insert and remove contacts, keep the lenses clean, and follow a regular wear schedule, even when tired, before taking the plunge. Remember that kids need to be mature enough to handle contacts to keep their eyes and vision healthy. The age at which they’re ready will vary from child to child.

Why does your child need contact lenses? Is it a functional issue where they’re having trouble seeing? Or is it a concern about appearance? If it’s the latter, you may want to talk to your child about how they feel and about  peer pressure at school.

To get the complete low-down of this issue, we spoke to two eye experts: Dr Audra Fong, ophthalmologist at Audra Fong Eye Clinic & Surgery, and Dr Cheryl Ngo, associate consultant from the Eye Surgery Centre at the National University Hospital.

Are there cases in which it is necessary for kids to be using contact lenses?
Dr Ngo: There are some special refractive needs where kids have to wear contact lenses, such as aphakia, high astigmatism, in which spectacle use is not suitable.

Are there any implication for kids who start early with lenses?
Dr Fong
: Parents have to be constantly vigilant to supervise their children’s contact lens habits and to be aware of all the potential complications of contact lens use – the most feared of which is corneal infection, which can lead to blindness.

Dr Ngo: The longer the duration of contact lens use, the higher the chance of a contact lens-related infection. They may also develop contact lens intolerance.

But what are the benefits for kids using contact lenses?
Dr Fong
:  Prescription contact lenses can often make our lives a lot easier. While they require responsible care,
they can also: Give you a wider range of vision, or better peripheral (side) vision, enhance sports performance and experience and improve your child’s self-esteem – many children would rather not wear eyeglasses at school.

So, which contact lenses should kids go for?
Dr Ngo:  Contact lenses with higher oxygen permeability should be the contact lens of choice.

Dr Fong: You may have heard of orthokeratology or ortho-K lenses being marketed as an effective mean of slowing the progression of myopia in children. Orthokeratology, Cornea Refractive Therapy or Corneal Moulding, is a non-surgical, reversible process using a unique therapeutic mould (basically a hard contact lens) to reshape the cornea while the user sleeps. Some refer to Ortho-K as “orthodontics for the eye”.

What’s the best bet then? Stick to spectacles! Even if your child insists on trying contact lenses, perhaps you can educate them on the danger they can potentially face if they do not treat their eyes with care.

Remember, your child’s eyesight is precious, so treat it with utmost care. What’s your say on this matter? Let us know in the comments below.