A survey into optometrists’ prescribing habits for children and young people has found that a child’s maturity is more important than age in deciding whether they are suitable to be prescribed contact lenses.

A total of 748 practising optometrists participated in the research and more than half of the respondents said their criteria for fitting contact lenses had not changed over the last five years, however nearly half (45%) of optometrists said they would recommend contact lenses as a preferred form of sight correction by the time a child reaches 15.

Deciding whether contact lenses or glasses are the best option for a child can be difficult. As well as age, optometrists take into account the child’s interest and motivation to wear contact lenses, personal hygiene habits and ability to look after them. The most common reasons for parents requesting contact lenses for their children included glasses interfering with sports (46%) and daily activities (13%.)

College member and optometrist Francesca Marchetti says:

“There are pros and cons for contact lenses and glasses but it’s important that parents are aware of all the options available. For children who play a lot of sport or go to dance classes, parents often choose contact lenses above glasses for practical reasons. If a child feels self- conscious about wearing glasses then contact lenses can also be preferable.

Contact lenses have really advanced in the last five years and they are now far more comfortable and, importantly, breathable which is much better for the overall health of the eye.

However contact lenses are not for every child. Hygiene is a key factor in optometrists recommending contact lenses as they must be kept extremely clean to avoid infection. An optometrist would normally issue daily contact lenses for this reason but if a child isn’t ready to have contacts then glasses can be a better option.

Some children also prefer wearing glasses as they’re often seen as fashionable these days.

The most important thing is that it is the child’s choice and a three way conversation between the parent, optometrist and child should take place before a decision is made. Children develop at different ages and it must be taken on a case by case basis to ensure the right decision is reached for that child.”