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How old does a child need to be to wear contact lenses?

First, an eye examination is needed to determine your child's suitability for contact lenses. This typically includes a refraction to determine the power of the lens and an assessment of eye health. Prescriptions for contact lenses and glasses may be similar but are not interchangeable.

More than half of optometrists feel it is appropriate to introduce a child to soft contact lenses between the ages of 10 to 12, with daily disposable contact lenses being the most frequently prescribed contacts for this age group, according to an American Optometric Association study.

Age is one factor in determining whether a child is a good candidate for contacts but not the only one. Nearly all respondents say that a child's interest and motivation to wear contact lenses is the most important factor to consider in fitting a child with contacts. Also very important to doctors are a child's maturity level, the child's ability to take care of contact lenses by themselves, and the child's personal hygiene habits. While only a very small percentage of doctors say they are less likely to fit contact lenses in children, poor hygiene and maturity levels seen in younger children were most often cited as reasons.

Studies demonstrate that children who need refractive error correction are capable of wearing and caring for soft contact lenses. Eye care professionals will typically evaluate a child's maturity and level of parental support in deciding whether a child is ready for contact lenses.
Studies have found that contacts are safe for children over 8, thanks to changes in contact lens materials in the past few years and the availability of daily disposable lenses. However, most optometrists feel that the best age for kids to start wearing contacts is between 10 and 12.

To tell if a child is ready for contacts, consider her maturity level (will she be likely to lose her lenses? will she be able to put them in and take them out herself?), hygiene habits (will she keep her lenses clean, for example, and wash her hands before handling them?); sports participation (will contacts make it easier for her to see while she plays or competes?) and prescription requirements. If you think your child is ready for contact lenses -- and she wants to try them -- talk to her optometrist or ophthalmologist.
There are no firm lower age limits for contact lens fittings. The important criterion is the responsibleness of the patient and the parent. A motivated, clear-thinking 11-year-old could well become a successful contact lens wearer.

Be aware, however, that there will probably be more frequent changes in the necessary power of the contact lenses in patients younger than 18 than in older patients. Therefore, regular follow-up visits to the Eye M.D. who fits the contact lenses are important.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.