Whether for looks or function, an estimated 34 million Americans wear contact lenses...but are they safe for kids? And what should parents know before ditching the glasses?
For Brennan Edwards, 15, it all started with headaches.
"I was taking ibuprofen everyday and they still came a lot and so my mom thought maybe it's my vision," said Edwards.
Turns out Edwards' eyes are not too bad, just a little near-sighted, and with corrective lenses the headaches cleared right up. Like most teens playing sports, glasses became cumbersome, so he switched to daily contact lenses. While soft disposables are the norm now, it was not always so easy.
"Back in the day, lenses were hard to begin with. They were uncomfortable the first week or two," said optometrist Dr. Jeffrey Hankins at The Eye Clinic. He recommends dailies, especially for young patients.
"This way care is basically a mute point. They are always getting a fresh, clean lens and when you factor in the cost of the lenses daily versus having to buy solutions, its almost the same in nature," said Dr. Hankins. He added that daily wear lens infections are less than one percent.
Dr. Hankins says hand washing is a problem for many contact wearers, not just young people.
"We've taught parents to put lenses on babies when it was necessary, but realistically I've fitted kids in the six to eight year old range when it was the right thing to do in that situation," said Dr. Hankins.
Contacts can technically be worn at any age, but some children are more careful than others.
"Age really is a factor of the individual. I've got some eight year olds that handle lenses and take care of them better than some of my adult patients," said Dr. Hankins.
Young eyes will often change prescription a few more times before adulthood, so an up to date spare pair of glasses is essential.
"All contact lens patients should have a back-up pair of glasses," emphasized Dr. Hankins.
If an eye infection develops or contacts run out, these may be your only hope.