Data from a new survey of 576 US opticians shows a shift in their approach to vision correction as children get older, with 21 percent noting that they are more likely to fit 10-12 year-olds in contact lenses than they were a year ago. The ‘Children & Contact Lenses' study was conducted by the American Optometric Association (AOA) with support from VISTAKON®, Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. More than half of optometrists now feel it is appropriate to prescribe contact lenses for children  between the ages of 10 and 12, with daily disposable contact lenses being the most frequently prescribed contacts for this age group. 

"Studies in children's vision correction confirm that contacts provide additional benefits to children beyond simply correcting their vision, including significantly improving how they feel about their physical appearance, acceptance among friends and ability to play sports. It's no surprise that optometrists and parents are becoming even more comfortable with the decision to recommend contact lenses to children when vision correction is required," says Christine W. Sindt, OD, FAAO, Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Iowa, and Chair of the Contact Lens and Cornea Section of the AOA.

The study was designed to gauge current trends in prescribing contact lenses for children  aged 8-17 years and to understand factors that influence optometrists' decisions to fit a child in contacts. On average, respondents indicated that children up to the age of 17 account for about 41 percent of their total contact lens patient population. The primary reasons cited by optometrists for fitting children with contact lenses include the wide range of daily disposable lenses, improved contact lens materials, requests from the child and/or parent, recent research on the subject and children's participation in activities/sports.

Many optometrists indicated that parents who request that their child be fitted in contact lenses do so because the child refuses to wear his or her glasses as well as because the child's current vision correction interferes with sports and other daily activities. However, before agreeing to prescribe contact lenses for children, optometrists also asses the child's interest and motivation to wear contact lenses, his or her ability to take care of contact lenses and their personal hygiene habits. Nevertheless, the significant increase in optometrists confirming that they are now more readily prescribing contact lenses for children demonstrates that the trend away from glasses is strengthening.

It is believed that a similar trend towards fitting contact lenses for children  is also evident in the UK. More recently, the availability of overnight corrective contact lenses - worn only while sleeping - provide an ideal alternative for short-sighted children who wear glasses. These special lenses are suitable for any age with children as young as 6 years old successfully wearing them. Apart from the fact that children can enjoy visual confidence in a full range of classroom, playground and sports activities at school, overnight contact lenses can also slow down or even halt the progression of short-sightedness in children.

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