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Preteens Can Wear Contacts Responsibly

Kids aged 8-12 like soft contact lenses -- and use them as well as teens do, a Vistakon-funded study shows.

Optometrists are reluctant to prescribe contact lenses to children younger than 12, notes Ohio State University's Jeffrey J. Walline, OD, PhD. They worry that fitting kids with contacts takes too long -- and that the youngsters will have trouble learning how to use the lenses correctly.

Early results from an ongoing study suggest that optometrists and parents shouldn't worry. Walline and University of Houston optometrist Amber Gaume Giannoni, OD, reported the findings at this week's meeting of the American Academy of Optometry.

"We found that younger children are just as responsible with their lenses [as teens]," Walline says in a news release.

The researchers studied more than 100 children and teenagers who were given a three-month supply of disposable soft contact lenses and cleaning solution. The lenses used in the study must be taken out at night and thrown away after two weeks.

Walline and colleagues found that fitting children for contact lenses was nearly as easy as fitting teens. It took about 15 minutes longer to teach the younger children the right way to insert and remove the lenses. But the kids showed they understood the instructions very well.

After a month of wearing contacts, kids were more satisfied with them than they were with their eyeglasses. Parents reported that the 8- to 12-year-olds wore their lenses about 10.5 hours a day -- slightly less than the 11.5 hours-a-day wear reported by teens.

"The biggest boosts were in terms of satisfaction with their correction and also with participation in activities," Walline says. "Children and teens reported that it was much easier to engage in sports, dancing, and other activities while wearing contact lenses."

Surprisingly, vanity didn't seem to be an issue. Kids' feelings about their own appearance -- and about their contact-wearing peers' appearance -- didn't change when they exchanged their glasses for contact lenses.

The study was funded by Vistakon, a division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. Walline is a paid consultant for Vistakon. Johnson & Johnson is a WebMD sponsor.

SOURCES: American Academy of Optometry annual meeting, Denver, Dec. 7-10, 2006. News release, American Academy of Optometry.

By Daniel DeNoon
Reviewed by Louise Chang