Kids Less Likely to Have 'Four Eyes,' Study Says

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Shades are cool. Prescription eyeglasses? Not so much. Credit: Getty Images

Yes, folks, children with glasses do still get teased and called "Four Eyes." But now, it seems, specs may not have to be the only option to help kids see better at an early age.

More than half of optometrists say it's appropriate for children to start wearing soft contact lenses between the ages of 10 and 12, with daily disposable lenses being the most frequently prescribed for this age group, according to a new study from the American Optometric Association (AOA).

Doctors usually fit children ages 8 to 12 with glasses, and they prescribe contact lenses secondarily. But new data from this survey of 576 optometrists shows a gradual shift in approach as children get older, with 21 percent of optometrists noting they're now more likely to fit 10- to 12-year-olds in contact lenses than they were a year ago.

Overall, one in five optometrists say they begin prescribing contact lenses first for 10- to 12-year-olds; nearly half prescribe contact lenses first for 13- to 14-year-olds; and two-thirds recommend lenses first for 15- to 17-year-olds.

In explaining this shift in their approach, over half of the doctors who say they're now more likely to fit children in lenses attribute it either to the availability of daily disposable lenses or "improved contact lens materials"; nearly 20 percent say the shift results from requests made by the child and/or parent; and 10 percent say that recent research on the subject and kids' participation in sports/activities have influenced their decision.

Nearly all (96 percent) of the doctors surveyed say the most important factor to consider when fitting a kid with contact lenses is the child's interest and motivation to wear them. Further, the child's maturity level (93 percent), ability to take care of lenses by themselves (89 percent) and personal hygiene habits (89 percent) are also vitally important.

Though only a very small percentage of optometrists say they are less likely to fit kids in contact lenses, poor hygiene and maturity levels seen in younger kids were the reasons cited most often.

The study, conducted by the AOA with support from VISTAKON® -- a Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. -- was designed to gauge current trends in prescribing contact lenses to children ages 8-17 and to understand factors that influence optometrists' decisions to fit a child in contacts.

Other key study findings include:

  • The majority of doctors surveyed say gender was not a factor in the decision to fit a kid in contact lenses, though one in four say they are more likely to fit younger children when they're girls.
  • Daily disposables are the most frequently prescribed lenses for children 12 and under, while reusable contact lenses (two-week and monthly replacement) are prescribed more often for kids ages 13 to 17.
  • Two out of five optometrists say parents request contact lenses because their kid refuses to wear his or her glasses.
  • Seventy-one percent of doctors said overnight wear of contact lenses is not appropriate for kids under 18.
"This study shows us that parents should feel that it's OK to ask their child's eye doctor about contact lenses," Dr. Sindt, Chair of the Contact Lens and Cornea Section of the AOA, tells ParentDish in an email. "We shouldn't put up barriers based on a child's age or preconceived notion that a child can't wear contact lenses. Contact lenses are safe and effective for children -- even young children -- and they have a positive impact on their emotional, social and educational development."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.