When fitting contact lenses in children, how much consideration do you put on the psychological impact? There is plenty of research to show that myopic children, wearing contact lenses, have a more positive outlook on their physical appearance, athletic and social skills1. While the psychological advantages would never trump health concerns it is something we cannot overlook.
A previous randomized clinical trial compared the self-esteem of contact lens wearers to that of eyeglass wearers in children between the ages of 10-13. On average, the study showed that over a 3 year period the children using contact lenses rated higher on self-esteem as related to appearance and popularity2. While there are obviously other factors at play (i.e. gender, age, ethnicity, etc.), the research goes on to show that there is a “social acceptance” component to children NOT using spectacles.
Adolescence is a delicate time for these young people. During this developmental stage a childs peers can present an incredible amount of pressure and influence. As we have all gone through this stage, most of us can appreciate that being “popular” was the most important thing at the time. Our perspective on this matter can have in influence on us as practitioners. When a child, and parent, present themselves as responsible for contact lens care, are we offering it?
Starting a child off with one day occasional wear may be a good place to begin. What about offering lenses for just school or during sport activities. While the concerns listed in this post might not be the main reason driving our contact lens fits, we cannot overlook the positive impact our efforts can have on a particular child’s development.
Jason E. Compton OD FAAO
- Walline JJ, Jones LA, Sinnott L, et al. Randomized trial of the effect of contact lens wear on self-perception in children. Optom Vis Sci. 2009;86:222–232.
- Terry RL, Soni S, Horner DG. Spectacles, contact lenses and children’s self-concepts: a longitudinal study. Optom Vis Sc. 1997;74:1044–1048