These days, eyeglasses can look pretty cool. Still, the day may come when your son or daughter asks you for contact lenses.
How old do you have to be to wear contact lenses?
There is no age limit: babies can wear them, and so can seniors. Many eye care professionals begin to encourage contact lens wear at age 11 to 14.
The real issue for teens is not age, but whether they are responsible enough to wear and care for contact lenses properly. Parents, teens, and their eye care practitioner must make this decision together.
Why not just wear eyeglasses?
Teens are self-conscious, and they often feel more attractive and accepted if they don't have a pair of eyeglasses in front of their eyes. Contact lenses may help a teenager feel greater self-esteem and more at ease around others. Contacts also offer advantages for active teens who play sports.
How much care do contact lenses require?
Cleaning regimens are easier than ever. Most people use just one bottle of multi-purpose solution and a case. One type of contact lens — daily disposable lenses — doesn't need a cleaning regimen at all. You simply discard the lenses when you remove them at the end of each day. For this reason, daily disposable contacts such as clariti 1 day are a great choice for most teens.
For contacts that do require care, many eye care practitioners report that teens and children are more diligent about cleaning their contact lenses than are adults, who after years of wearing them often become more casual about lens care. And young people often are more careful about following directions from a medical professional.
Do you need a prescription to get contacts?
Yes. The Food and Drug Administration classifies contact lenses as a medical device. Contacts must fit properly on the eye — if they don't, serious eye health issues can result. That's why they must be fitted by an eye care practitioner, who will write a prescription for the proper size, shape, power, and brand of lenses.
By law, you need a prescription in order to purchase contact lenses. This is true even if your contacts have no vision correction in them, such as some color contacts or special-effect contacts.
A contact lens fitting is painless and can even be fun. It often can be done in conjunction with a regular eye exam.
Are contact lenses more or less expensive than glasses?
It's impossible to generalize about cost. As with eyeglasses, the cost of contact lenses varies widely, depending on the brand, the prescription, and how often the lenses are replaced. You can always call your eye care practitioner and ask for a price range. You should also take into account the cost of cleaning supplies and a storage case, plus the fact that a backup pair of eyeglasses is recommended.
Daily disposable contacts are a special case, because they don't require any cleaning supplies or containers. It depends on the brand and the supplier, but daily disposables can cost as little as $1 per day, making them affordable for most people.
What if a lens gets lost or torn?
Make sure you discuss with your eye doctor what you can do to replace a contact lens that has been torn, damaged or lost. If you wear disposable contacts, you don't have the expense or inconvenience of worrying about a replacement because you'll already have a supply of lenses on hand.
Are contacts comfortable?
Modern contact lenses are designed to be very comfortable. Most are made of a soft material that is hardly noticeable, if at all, once the lenses are placed on the eyes. Eye care practitioners have very sophisticated tools for measuring the eyes and making sure the lenses fit well.
Contacts can become uncomfortable over time if they accumulate dirt or allergens that stick to the them. Proper care and cleaning normally prevents this. Another way to prevent debris accumulation on the lenses is to choose a daily disposable such as clariti 1 day. Since the lenses are discarded at the end of the day, not much debris will accumulate.
Is it difficult to put contact lenses on?
Some people wonder if it will hurt to apply contact lenses to their eyes for the first time. The fear is understandable, and it's related to the reluctance they may have to touch their eyes. But after learning how to insert and remove their lenses, most people find it's comfortable and easy to do.
Are contact lenses safe?
For teens, contact lenses may be safer than eyeglasses in many situations. Unlike glasses, they are unlikely to be damaged during football, basketball, and other sports. Plus, if a sport requires safety goggles or a ski mask, it is more convenient and comfortable to wear them over contact lenses than over eyeglasses.
Generally, contact lenses are very safe if cared for properly. Your teen shouldn't swap lenses with friends or wear them longer than prescribed, and regular eye exams are important. Remember: if at any time your eyes don't look good, feel good or see well — see your doctor.
Can a contact lens get stuck behind the eye?
No need to worry. A thin, clear tissue called the conjunctiva lines the inner surface of the eyelids and folds back onto the front surface of the eye. So it's impossible for a contact lens (or anything else) to get stuck behind the eye.
What about color and special effect contact lenses?
These lenses are fun and safe as long as they are properly fitted and prescribed by an eye care practitioner. Never buy them online, at a beauty parlor, swap meet, convenience store or anywhere else without a prescription. Any retailer who tries to sell you contact lenses without a valid prescription from an eye doctor iis operating outside of the law and doesn't care about the safety of your eyes.
Remember that if cosmetic contacts are worn only occasionally, they need to be properly stored and disinfected between wearing.
Is it OK to try on a friend's contact lenses?
No, not even if the lenses have no vision correction in them. Dangerous microorganisms that cause serious eye infections can be passed along that way. Many eye doctors will provide a free trial pair of contact lenses so your teen can see how lenses look and feel before deciding whether or not to wear contacts.
Is it okay to sleep in contacts?
Not all contact lenses are designed for overnight wear. Further, not everyone's eyes can adapt to this, even when using the proper lenses. Only an eye care practitioner can judge whether someone is a good candidate to wear contacts overnight, and no one should try this unless their eye care practitioner says it's okay.
Even for ideal candidates, wearing contact lenses overnight increases the risk of eye problems to some degree. The healthiest way to wear contacts is to remove and discard them every night.
You can talk with your child about the risks and responsibilities of wearing contact lenses and whether she or he is able to handle these responsibilities. Then talk with your eye care provider to determine if your child is a good candidate for wearing contact lenses.