What Age Can You Wear Contact Lenses UK?

Determining the appropriate age to begin wearing contact lenses can be a question many parents in the UK ponder. While there isn’t an official or specific age at which children can start wearing contact lenses, the decision largely depends on the child’s ability and responsibility to properly handle and care for them.

Children are known to be quick learners and can be just as capable of wearing contact lenses as adults. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended that a parent or guardian supervises their child during the initial stages to ensure proper usage and maintenance of the lenses. In fact, many children find success in wearing contact lenses and even notice a positive impact on their sports performance and overall visual experience.

Although no hard and fast rule exists about the age at which children may begin wearing contact lenses in the UK, it is crucial to consider their ability to handle and care for the lenses responsibly. With proper supervision and guidance, many children can successfully use contact lenses to improve their vision and quality of life.

contact lenses for children

Determining the Appropriate Age for Contact Lens Wear

When it comes to determining the appropriate age for children to start wearing contact lenses, there is no fixed rule or specific age requirement. The decision depends on various factors, such as the child’s responsibility, hygiene practices, and motivation.

A significant aspect to consider before introducing contact lenses to a child is their level of responsibility. They should be capable of consistently maintaining proper lens care, which includes cleaning, storing, and handling the lenses safely. Additionally, children must demonstrate good hygiene habits. Dirty hands and lenses can lead to eye infections, so cleanliness is vital.

Optometrists also evaluate the motivation behind wanting to wear contact lenses. Children who engage in sports or other activities may benefit from the increased range of vision that contact lenses can provide. 

Some children, especially those with myopia, might need contact lenses for medical reasons. These should be determined during an eye examination.

Before making a decision, it’s important for children to undergo a proper eye examination with a qualified optometrist. The optometrist will assess factors such as eye health, maturity, and comfort levels to determine if contact lenses are a suitable choice for the child. 

If deemed appropriate, a trial period with lenses can be helpful to ensure they adapt well and can handle the responsibility of contact lens care.

The fitting process is another aspect to consider. A skilled optometrist will ensure that the contact lenses fit comfortably and securely in the child’s eyes, reducing the risk of irritation or other complications.

glasses for children of different ages

Types of Contact Lenses Suitable for Children

When it comes to choosing contact lenses for children, there are several factors to consider, including the child’s age, lifestyle, and eye prescription. In this section, we’ll explore different types of contact lenses suitable for children and their advantages.

Soft Contact Lenses

Soft contact lenses are made from hydrogel or silicone hydrogel materials, which allow oxygen to pass through to the eye. This makes them comfortable for children to wear, as they easily conform to the shape of the child’s eye.

These lenses are ideal for first-time wearers and those who lead an active lifestyle, as they are less likely to dislodge during physical activities.

  • Hydrogel lenses: These are made from hydrogel material and offer good comfort and easy adaptation for children.

  • Silicone hydrogel lenses: These are more advanced than standard hydrogel lenses, as silicone allows even more oxygen to pass through the lens. This increased breathability means the eye stays healthier and more comfortable.

Gas Permeable Lenses

Gas permeable lenses, also known as rigid gas permeable (RGP) or oxygen permeable lenses, are made from more rigid materials. These lenses allow more oxygen to pass through to the eye, providing better overall eye health when compared to traditional soft lenses. 

Gas permeable lenses may be a better option for children with certain eye conditions, such as astigmatism or corneal irregularities, as they maintain their shape better and can provide clearer vision.

Daily Contact Lenses

Daily contact lenses, or daily disposables, are designed for one-time use and are thrown away after each day. These lenses are a convenient option for children, as they require minimal maintenance and do not require a cleaning routine. Daily contact lenses are often recommended for children because:

  • They lower the risk of eye infections, as a fresh pair is used each day.
  • They eliminate the need for lens care and storage, making them easier for children to manage.

Orthokeratology Lenses

Orthokeratology, or ortho-k lenses, are specially designed gas permeable lenses worn overnight to temporarily reshape the cornea. These lenses can be an excellent option for children with myopia (nearsightedness), as they help to slow the progression of the condition. The benefits of ortho-k lenses for children include:

  • Clear vision during the day without the need for glasses or contact lenses
  • Slowing myopia progression in some cases
  • Increased confidence and freedom during daily activities
myopia

Benefits and Considerations of Contact Lens Use in Children

Introducing contact lenses at an appropriate age can be beneficial for children’s vision correction, self-esteem, and quality of life. In the UK, there is no specific recommended age for starting to wear contact lenses. It primarily depends on a child’s maturity and their ability to handle and care for the lenses responsibly.

Benefits of Contact Lens Use in Children

  • Sports: Wearing contact lenses can significantly improve a child’s performance in sports. The lenses provide an unrestricted field of vision and eliminate peripheral vision issues. This allows children to focus on the game without the worry of glasses slipping, breaking, or fogging up.

  • Vision Correction: Contact lenses can correct various vision problems, including myopia (short-sightedness) and astigmatism. They also provide a more natural field of view as compared to glasses, which can sometimes cause distortion around the lens edges.

  • Self-esteem and Self-confidence: Some children may feel self-conscious about wearing glasses, which can impact their self-esteem and self-confidence. Contact lenses offer a discreet solution, allowing children to feel more comfortable and confident in their appearance.

  • Quality of Life: Contact lens wearers typically experience a greater sense of freedom as they can participate in activities without the inconvenience of glasses.

Considerations for Contact Lens Use in Children

While introducing contact lenses offers a range of benefits, it’s essential to consider the following factors:

  • Hygiene and Care: Proper lens care is vital to prevent eye infections and maintain eye health. Children must be responsible for cleaning and storing their contact lenses, and parents should carefully monitor their child’s lens handling practices.

  • Appropriate Lens Selection: With various types of contact lenses available, it’s important to find the right fit for a child’s specific vision needs. A qualified optician can recommend suitable lens options, including daily disposables or extended-wear lenses.

  • Routine Eye Checks: Regular eye examinations are essential for ensuring proper eye health while using contact lenses. Children should undergo eye exams at least every six months, or as recommended by their optician.

children washing hands

Contact Lens Safety and Care

Caring for contact lenses is an important aspect of maintaining proper eye health. Following the correct procedure is vital to avoid irritation, infections, and ensure the prescription contact lenses work effectively.

Cleaning solutions play a significant role in caring for your lenses. It’s important to use the appropriate lens solutions recommended by your optician. 

When cleaning your lenses, remember to wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling them. Gently rub the lens with a few drops of solution for about 20 seconds, and then rinse it with a few more drops to remove any debris. Finally, store your contact lenses securely in their case, which should be replaced regularly.

Contact lens wearers should be mindful of the time they spend wearing their lenses. Wearing contact lenses for too long can increase the risk of infection. Always follow the wear schedule prescribed by your optician and remove your lenses if you experience any irritation or discomfort.

To maintain eye health, keep the following points in mind:

  • Always follow the guidelines provided by your optician for contact lens use.
  • Clean and disinfect your lenses daily using the recommended lens solutions.
  • Store your lenses in their case when not in use and replace the case regularly.
  • Avoid wearing your lenses while swimming, showering, or sleeping, as this can increase the risk of eye infections.

By properly caring for your contact lenses, you can enjoy the benefits of clear vision while ensuring the safety of your eyes.