By Jacqui Mayhew
Contact lenses for children represent an excellent means of correcting vision problems and can be very beneficial in enabling children to become more confident and avoid the risk of being bullied as happens to so many glasses wearers. The new ortho-k overnight contact lenses to correct short-sightedness which are only worn while sleeping also offer the additional benefit that they prevent a child's short-sight getting worse. However, there is an increasing trend for children to see contact lenses as being a fashion item which allows them to change eye colour or - as popularised by Lady Gaga - to acquire the doll-like big-eyed manga look popular in the Far East. Unfortunately, these types of contact lenses are not being prescribed by qualified eyecare practitioners - they are often being bought over the internet from unregulated websites without any requirement to check eye health.
The risks posed by buying these so-called fashion contact lenses online can be very significant as highlighted in a recent study undertaken in Thailand where four teenagers were found to have severe corneal infections after wearing imported big-eye manga lenses. The risk that misuse can lead to temporary loss of vision or even permanent blindness is exacerbated by the large number of children now wearing these cosmetic lenses. According to Dr Sakchai Vongkittirux, President of Thailand's Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the number of young Thais wearing cosmetic contact lenses is now in excess of 200,000 compared to 100,000 four years ago yet many of these people have good or normal eyesight and thus require no vision correction at all. Only where there is a prescribed clinical need should contact lenses for children be worn.
"In tandem with this increase in the number of cosmetic contact lens wearers, the number of young people suffering from eye infections is also rising," Dr Sakchai observed. Children who wear cosmetic contact lenses can contract infections if they fail to take adequate care of their lenses, have poor personal hygiene or simply wear the lenses for too long each day. As big-eye lenses become more widely available, there is growing concern that children will present at hospitals and opticians with many more cases of eye irritation and infections caused by the low-quality plastics and chemical dyes used in the cheaper lenses. In the UK, prescribing contact lenses for children by qualified eyecare practitioners is well-established but easy internet access to unregulated websites by children motivated by the desire to match their music and TV heroes represents a risk that needs to be addressed.
Check if your child is suitable for ortho-k overnight contact lenses for children.