Find out if your child’s ready for contact lenses. Also, experts disclose when they could get Lasik…

When should you get contact lenses for your kid

It’s not a statistic Singapore is proud of, but kids aged 7 to 9 top the world for myopia or short-sightedness. So, it’s no surprise that many of our school children rely on glasses to correct their poor vision.

Wearing spectacles can be a hindrance, especially when junior is physically active such as when they run. Temperature changes may also cause their eyewear to fog up. Their self-esteem may also be affected when this change in their appearance prompts teasing from their peers.

So, using contact lenses may seem more appealing than glasses. However, if you think that Lasik or laser eye surgery to correct his short-sightedness will remove the hassle of wearing contact lenses ― don’t.

Noting that a tween’s eyes are still developing, Dr Leo Seo Wei, a senior consultant ophthalmologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, explains, “Surgery will only provide temporary improvements to your tween’s vision, since the refractive error will still change. Lasik surgery in younger patients also carries a higher risk of complications.”

“Lasik surgery in younger patients also carries a higher risk of complications.”

So, your child should wait till they are aged 21, when their vision has stabilised. In the meantime, use spectacles or lenses.

But, before you head out to stock up on contacts for your young ‘un, we’ve asked the experts to share important facts you need to know…

1) There’s no “right” age for your kid to start wearing contacts

Dr Leo notes that physically speaking, your child’s eyes can tolerate contact lenses from a very young age. “[In fact,] some infants or babies are fitted with contact lenses due to congenital cataracts, which require surgery.”

Instead of age, you should consider your child’s ability to use the lenses properly and keeping them clean. Singapore National Eye Centre’s senior consultant, Dr Lim Li shares, there’s no specific age where children can start wearing lenses. “In general, it’s better to avoid contact lenses for children unless it is required for a medical reason. Children shouldn’t wear contact lenses for cosmetic reasons.”

Dr Leo suggests the following behavioural signs suggest your kiddo may be ready to own his first set of contact lenses:

* Is responsible and have good personal grooming habits,
* Keeps his bedroom and bathroom clean,

Generally, these behaviours usually show up in their teenage years.

When should you get contact lenses for your kid2

2) Your child may not be suitable for over-the-counter lenses

It’s a common misconception among patients that they can just buy their contact lenses without a fitting by a practitioner. Dr Lim points out, “Our eyes are different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ type of lens.”

Prescriptions for contact lens and glasses aren’t the same and can differ significantly. Dr Leo says that the reading on junior’s glasses may be higher than their lenses because it is positioned further away from the corneas. Contact lenses ― on the other hand — rest directly on the corneas. So, make sure to always see an optometrist for a contact lens fitting.

During a fitting, Dr Lim says the optometrist will…

* Check your child’s eyes.
* Carry out refractive eye tests.
* Check the corneal curvature using a keratometer.
* Offer lenses based on the reading obtained during the tests.

Another group of users who aren’t suitable for lenses are children who have allergies. Dr Leo notes, “The lenses may only increase the itching and burning caused by their allergies.”

“Our eyes are different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ type of lens.”

3) Ensure that junior follows the rules when using their lenses

Both Dr Leo and Dr Lim list rules your offspring must follow:

* Before cleaning or inserting the lenses. always wash your hands and carefully them with a clean lint-free cloth.
* Clean and disinfect your contact lenses as directed by your eyecare professional and only with the products and solutions they recommend.
* Never expose your contact lenses to any kind of saliva.
* Don’t wear your lenses beyond the prescribed schedule, especially refrain from wearing them overnight. Doing so can worsen dryness and increase the risk of infections, notes Dr Leo.
* Avoid swimming when you’re wearing the lenses.
* Never wear another person’s lenses.
* Never reuse your lenses without disinfecting them first.
* In general, always have a pair of back-up glasses handy.
* Never put a contact lens into an eye that is red, discontinue wearing them if they develops red eyes.
* Don’t ignore itching, burning, irritation or redness of the eyes. It can signal potentially dangerous infections. Remove the lenses and contact your eyecare professional.

4) If they don’t obey the rules, they may go blind

Junior must avoid getting corneal ulcers, a serious infection. Dr Leo states that this problem could cause irreversible blindness. So, hygiene is a very big part of safe use. She also recaps common mistakes your child should avoid making:

* Sharing or wearing his friend’s lenses.
* Using his saliva to moisten his lenses.
* Wearing lenses purchased from flea markets, beauty and cosmetics stores or the Internet.

Photos: iStock

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