Column: The right age for contacts


Commentary by Dr. Matthew Clark 

Summertime activities are hard on glasses, driving many families in to discuss contact lenses for their kids. Contacts can be a fantastic option for children, often providing a big confidence boost once they shed their frames. Young athletes, especially, find freedom from the burden of dirty, fogging and often scratched or broken glasses.

In our office, the conversation about contacts usually begins around age 9, though we often fit younger kids who are motivated and able. Many will leave wearing contacts that same day, while others may require a few training visits to get the hang of the technique. A study by the American Optometric Association found that 90 percent of children ages 8-11 are successful in learning to use contacts.

Easily the most important factor in a successful contact lens fit is motivation. You may be excited about seeing their beautiful face without glasses in the way, but if the child is not motivated to learn, the training can be very frustrating for them. A challenging initial experience often turns them off to the idea of contacts in the future. It’s best to let them decide that they’re ready. The other main consideration should be hygiene and maturity. Do you have to remind them daily to brush their teeth and wash their hands? Adding another critical hygienic step to their routine may be difficult for both of you.

Kids should start in daily disposable lenses, which require less maintenance and carry a lower infection risk than monthly-replacement lenses. We also recommend a UV-protected lens, of which there are many now available for no additional cost. A little UV protection goes a long way over potentially 50-plus years of contact lens wear.

Regardless of their age, if you think your kid is ready, then we’d agree! You know them best! With some good instruction, motivation and support they’ll be glasses-free in no time!