Soft contact lenses for children and teens
- Children (8-12 years) and teenagers (13-17 years) wearing soft contact lenses have show improved vision-related quality-of-life compared to wearing spectacles.
- Contact lenses are safe for kids, with research supporting that the risk of eye infection in children (8-12 years) wearing soft contact lenses appears to be lower than teenagers or adults.
- The ideal contact lens option for your child or teenager will depend on their prescription, eye health and other factors such as sports, hobbies and daily activities.
- There is a growing body of research evidence showing that myopia control soft contact lenses are among the most effective ways to slow myopia progression.
In this article
Contact lenses are a way to correct blurred vision, and suitable for children and teenagers to wear. Benefits for children and teens include better function and participation ability, improved confidence and self-perceptions, and for myopia control designs the proven ability to slow progression of myopia.
- What are soft contact lenses?
- Why should children and teenagers wear contact lenses?
- Are contact lenses safe for children and teenagers?
- How do I get my child or teenager fitted with contact lenses?
- Which contact lens option is best for my child?
- Soft contact lenses for myopia control in children and teensagers
- What can I do to help my child wear soft contact lenses?
What are soft contact lenses?
Soft contact lenses offer an alternative option to spectacles for correcting vision. They are made from a flexible clear oxygen permeable material and fit to closely align with the front surface of the eye.
Daily disposable soft lenses are the most commonly prescribed type of soft lens for children and teens.1 They are only worn for the day and discarded after being removed.
For more information about contact lenses, their types, how they are made and cared for, see our article All about contact lenses.
Why should children and teenagers wear contact lenses?
Some children and teenagers may require contact lenses for medical reasons,2 but in most cases contact lenses will be chosen as an alternative option to glasses. Over the last few years, introduction of myopia control contact lenses has led to growing interest in using contact lenses to slow progression of myopia in children.
Children (8-12 years) and teenagers (13-17 years) wearing soft contact lenses have show improved vision-related quality-of-life compared to wearing spectacles. Both groups report improved ability to participate in activities and satisfaction with their vision correction and their appearance.3
Are contact lenses safe for children and teenagers?
Contact lenses are safe for kids, with research supporting that the risk of eye infection in children (8-12 years) wearing soft contact lenses appears to be lower than teenagers or adults.4 Daily disposable soft contact lenses are safest, with a risk of eye infection being around 1 case per 5,000 wearers, per year.5
A recent research study in 8-12 year olds wearing soft daily disposable soft contact lenses for six years revealed no cases of serious eye infections, and no changes to their eye health appearance when viewed with clinical microscopes.6
Reusable soft contact lenses are worn during waking hours and removed, cleaned and stored overnight. They are typically reused for two to four weeks before disposal. The risk of an eye infection with this type of lens is around 1 case per 1,000 wearers per year.5 This is a similar risk to wearing ortho-k lenses,7,8 which are special rigid lenses worn overnight and removed on waking.
For more detail on contact lens safety, see our article How can I make contact lens wear and ortho-k as safe as possible.
How do I get my child or teenager fitted with contact lenses?
An optometrist or eye doctor will need to assess suitability for soft contact lenses, which includes a number of factors such as prescription and daily activities.1 If suitable, they will step through the process of assessing lens fit on eye, showing how to apply and remove the lenses, and if not daily disposable, how to clean and care for the lenses when they are not being worn.
Once assured that a child or teenager is comfortable to wear contact lenses and happy and able to have the required measurements taken, the lens fit process is no different to adults, but you should expect the process to take a little longer.
Research has shown that children only take around 10-15 mins more than teenagers to be shown how to handle contact lenses.9
Once fit with contact lenses, children and teens should be monitored by an optometrist or eye doctor at least every 6 months.1
Which contact lens option is best for my child?
The ideal option for your child or teenager will depend on their prescription, eye health and other factors such as sports, hobbies and daily activities.1 Options for kids and teens with myopia can include daily disposable and reusable soft contact lenses, as well as ortho-k lenses which are worn overnight.10 Your optometrist or eye doctor will discuss these options with you, based on their clinical findings and other personalized factors.
Learn more about how your child or teenager's individual situation can help point towards the most suitable contact lens option for them in All about contact lenses.
Soft contact lenses for myopia control in children and teensagers
Myopia, also known as short-sightedness or near-sightedness, is not just about a pair of glasses. Once myopia (shortsightedness) in children and teenagers onsets, it typically progresses or worsens every few months until the late teenage or early adulthood years.11
Myopia progression brings with it:
- Increasingly blurred vision
- The need for frequent changes in spectacle or contact lens prescription
- Increased risk of eye diseases and vision problems over a person’s lifetime.12
Soft contact lenses have led the way in development of new vision correction products that simultaneously slow progression of myopia. There is a growing body of research evidence showing that myopia control soft contact lenses are among the most effective for slowing myopia progression.13
The CooperVision daily disposable soft MiSight lens was the first to gain USA FDA approval and in 2022 published its positive 6-year study results.14 Other global contact lens manufacturers have already launched or are in the process of launching myopia control soft lens designs, some of which have European CE marking or other regulatory approvals for fitting to children.
Managing myopia progression and expectation of what to expect from myopia control varies across age groups. To read more detail on soft contact lenses for myopia control see our following articles according to age group:
- For children read Soft contact lenses for myopia control in children
- For teenagers read Soft contact lenses for myopia control in teenagers
- We also have an article onSoft contact lenses for myopia control in young adults
To learn more about myopia see our page What is myopia, and to learn more about myopia control read our article What is myopia control and why it's important.
There are three huge positives of contact lenses for children and teenagers.
- They feel more confident and able to participate in school and sport compared to wearing glasses.
- The safety profile is high, especially for daily disposable soft contact lenses.
- Special types of soft contact lenses can slow myopia progression in children and teens, which gives them clearer vision between eye exams and better long-term eye health as well.
What can I do to help my child wear soft contact lenses?
- Support them in learning to handle and take care of their contact lenses. Children can take 10-15 minutes longer than teenagers to learn to put their contact lenses on and take them off their eyes, but after this, the time needed for clinical care in children and teenagers is similar.9
- Encourage them to keep going. While it can take some time to get used to handling and wearing soft contact lenses, after three months children typically report excellent comfort and frequent wear.9 After six months, more than 90% of children report no problems with contact lens handling.
- Ensure they are wearing them as often as recommended by your optometrist. For myopia control soft contact lenses, full time wear is very important to achieve the best results in slowing myopia progression. This means a wearing time of at least 12 hours per day, for 6-7 days per week.14
- Wolffsohn JS, Dumbleton K, Huntjens B, Kandel H, Koh S, Kunnen CME, Nagra M, Pult H, Sulley AL, Vianya-Estopa M, Walsh K, Wong S, Stapleton F. CLEAR - Evidence-based contact lens practice. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2021 Apr;44(2):368-397.
- Jacobs DS, Carrasquillo KG, Cottrell PD, Fernández-Velázquez FJ, Gil-Cazorla R, Jalbert I, Pucker AD, Riccobono K, Robertson DM, Szczotka-Flynn L, Speedwell L, Stapleton F. CLEAR - Medical use of contact lenses. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2021 Apr;44(2):289-329.
- Walline JJ, Gaume A, Jones LA, Rah MJ, Manny RE, Berntsen DA, Chitkara M, Kim A, Quinn N. Benefits of contact lens wear for children and teens. Eye Contact Lens. 2007;33(6 Pt 1):317-321.
- Bullimore MA. The Safety of Soft Contact Lenses in Children. Optom Vis Sci. 2017 Jun;94(6):638-646.
- Stapleton F, Keay L, Edwards K, Naduvilath T, Dart JK, Brian G, Holden BA. The incidence of contact lens-related microbial keratitis in Australia. Ophthalmology. 2008 Oct;115(10):1655-62.
- Woods J, Jones D, Jones L, Jones S, Hunt C, Chamberlain P, McNally J. Ocular health of children wearing daily disposable contact lenses over a 6-year period. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2021 Aug;44(4):101391.
- Bullimore MA, Sinnott LT, Jones-Jordan LA. The risk of microbial keratitis with overnight corneal reshaping lenses. Optom Vis Sci. 2013 Sep;90(9):937-44
- Bullimore MA, Mirsayafov DS, Khurai AR, Kononov LB, Asatrian SP, Shmakov AN, Richdale K, Gorev VV. Pediatric Microbial Keratitis With Overnight Orthokeratology in Russia. Eye Contact Lens. 2021 Jul 1;47(7):420-425.
- Walline JJ, Jones LA, Rah MJ, Manny RE, Berntsen DA, Chitkara M, Gaume A, Kim A, Quinn N; CLIP STUDY GROUP. Contact Lenses in Pediatrics (CLIP) Study: chair time and ocular health. Optom Vis Sci. 2007 Sep;84(9):896-902.
- Vincent SJ, Cho P, Chan KY, Fadel D, Ghorbani-Mojarrad N, González-Méijome JM, Johnson L, Kang P, Michaud L, Simard P, Jones L. CLEAR - Orthokeratology. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2021 Apr;44(2):240-269.
- Hou W, Norton TT, Hyman L, Gwiazda J; COMET Group. Axial Elongation in Myopic Children and its Association With Myopia Progression in the Correction of Myopia Evaluation Trial. Eye Contact Lens. 2018 Jul;44(4):248-259. (link)
- Tideman JW, Snabel MC, Tedja MS, van Rijn GA, Wong KT, Kuijpers RW, Vingerling JR, Hofman A, Buitendijk GH, Keunen JE, Boon CJ, Geerards AJ, Luyten GP, Verhoeven VJ, Klaver CC. Association of Axial Length With Risk of Uncorrectable Visual Impairment for Europeans With Myopia. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016 Dec 1;134(12):1355-1363. (link)
- Brennan NA, Toubouti YM, Cheng X, Bullimore MA. Efficacy in myopia control. Prog Retin Eye Res. 2021 Jul;83:100923. (link)
- Chamberlain P, Bradley A, Arumugam B, Hammond D, McNally J, Logan NS, Jones D, Ngo C, Peixoto-de-Matos SC, Hunt C, Young G. Long-term Effect of Dual-focus Contact Lenses on Myopia Progression in Children: A 6-year Multicenter Clinical Trial. Optom Vis Sci. 2022 Mar 1;99(3):204-212.