There are a lot of benefits associated with contact lenses. Increased field of vision, less vision distortion and contacts don’t fog up when it is cold, rainy or while wearing a mask. For the most part, contacts are first recommended for teenagers. Children as young as 7 can wear and care for contacts and here are some examples where contact use for children offer more benefits than eyeglasses.
A study at The Ohio State University College of Optometry found that it can help slow the progression of myopia (nearsightedness) in kids. This was a three-year clinical trial and there were almost 300 children involved. It was found that using bifocal contacts with the highest near-work correction slowed myopic progression by 43 percent as opposed to single vision contacts.
What makes this study so great is that the children in this study were using the commercially available soft contacts that adults use. These lenses correct distance vision and add a boost for near work that often challenges middle-age users. The reason for this is the middle-age adults can no longer focus their eye when it comes to near work. Children still have the ability to focus on near work, so they adapt easier than adults.
The bifocal lenses move with the eye and provide more focus in the front of the retina than glasses do and slows the eye’s growth so that it doesn’t grow too long, which is what happens in myopia.
Standard treatments for amblyopia (lazy eye) include patching the good eye or corrective glasses. The trouble with those is that young children can’t tolerate patches and corrective glasses initially blur vision and this leads many kids to look over their glasses. Enter contact lenses, in particular contact lenses to treat anisometropia (eyes with unequal focus), which leads to amblyopia.
Usually the starting point for treatment is corrective glasses, but if the corrections between the eyes is greater than 5.00D, then contact lenses are the better option. Contact lenses when used to treat anisometropia in an amblyopic patient reduces the problem of unequal magnification, minimize prismatic effect during eye movements, increase peripheral vision and decrease peripheral distortions. So, contacts end up providing the best opportunity for binocular vision development and reversal of amblyopia.
Standard soft disposable contacts can be used to treat children with amblyopia. For toddlers, use silicone hydrogel lenses since they nap often. If a child has very high astigmatism, very high sphere or has steep base curves, then custom design needs to be considered.
What about the old standby of patching/occlusion therapy of the non-amblyopic or good eye? Well, contacts can do that job, too. There are contact lenses that block the vision in the good eye. In one study, 13 patients wore an occluder contact lens after having trouble with patching. The subjects wore the lens on a part-time basis, less than 10 hours a day. Five out of the 13 didn’t succeed due to difficulties with lens handling. Four patients had partial success since they wore the lens for between 4 to 14 months. Another four out of this group, wore the lens until the end of the study, which ranged between 26 to 60 months (2 to 5 years).
Of course, it is important to monitor eye health when it comes to contacts and the ritual of inserting/removing/cleaning contacts adds an extra layer of work for parents, still contacts offer more flexibility and in some cases comfort for those experiencing myopia and amblyopia.