Several studies have shown that children as young as eight years are able to wear gas permeable,[1-3] corneal reshaping,[4-8] and soft contact lenses.[9-12] Gas permeable (hard) contact lenses were originally thought to slow the progression of nearsightedness, but two randomized clinical trials have shown that they do not slow the growth of the eye,[1, 3] so they are primarily fit on children who have difficulty handling soft contact lenses or who have highly irregular corneas (the clear window on the front of the eye) possibly from trauma or eye problems such as keratoconus. Corneal reshaping contact lenses are worn during sleep only. They temporarily flatten the cornea so that a nearsighted child can see clearly throughout the day with glasses or contact lenses. These contact lenses have been shown to slow eye growth in children.[4-7] Typical soft contact lenses have no effect on the progression of nearsightedness, but soft bifocal contact lenses (typically worn by adults over the age of 40 who otherwise have difficulty seeing clearly at near) have been shown to slow the growth of the eye.[14-17]
Children also benefit from contact lens wear other than slowing the progression of nearsightedness. Children feel better about their athletic abilities, their appearance, and their peer interactions when they wear contact lenses than when they wear spectacles. They even feel smarter if they wear contact lenses than if they wear spectacles, but only if they originally didn’t like to wear spectacles. Children also report that they prefer to participate in activities while wearing contact lenses more than while wearing spectacles, and the most-preferred vision correction is contact lens wear.
It has even been shown that most children (8-12 years of age) require only about five extra minutes to learn how to insert, remove, and care for their contact lenses when compared to teenagers (13-17 years of age). They also show similar benefits as the older group. In fact, children between the ages of 8 and 18 years of age are less likely to require discontinuation of contact lens wear due to problems encountered and also less likely due to experience irritation of the eye due to contact lens wear than college students between the ages of 19 and 25 years.[18, 19] After wearing soft contact lenses for 10 years, those fit as children (7 to 12 years of age) reported similar rates of painful red eyes that required visits to the eye doctor than those fit as teenagers (13 to 17 years of age), and those fit as children as exhibited similar eye health as those fit as teenagers.
Personal experience, backed up by scientific evidence, shows that children as young as eight years can routinely wear contact lenses. When considering contact lens wear for your child, determine the primary reason you would like your child to wear contact lenses. If it is to slow the progression of nearsightedness, then corneal reshaping and soft bifocal contact lenses are the most effective methods. Unfortunately, neither of these contact lenses comes in a daily disposable modality. If your child doesn’t like to wear glasses or finds it difficult to participate in recreational activities with glasses, then daily disposable contact lenses may be best for your child. Contact lenses that are thrown away daily eliminate the need to clean and care for the lenses, reducing care of the lenses to insertion in the morning and removal at bedtime.
Some doctors believe that children should not be fit with contact lenses until they are teenagers. However, there is considerable evidence that indicates children are very capable of contact lens wear, and they experience significant benefits, visually and socially. Talk to your eye doctor about contact lens wear for your child, and if your doctor says that children should not be fit with contact lenses, consider a second opinion.
 Katz J, Schein OD, Levy B, et al. A randomized trial of rigid gas permeable contact lenses to reduce progression of children’s myopia. Am J Ophthalmol 2003;136:82-90. (Go Back)
 Khoo CY, Chong J, Rajan U. A 3-year study on the effect of RGP contact lenses on myopic children. Singapore Med J 1999;40:230-7. (Go Back)
 Walline JJ, Jones LA, Mutti DO, et al. A randomized trial of the effects of rigid contact lenses on myopia progression. Arch Ophthalmol 2004;122:1760-6. (Go Back)
 Cho P, Cheung SW. Retardation of Myopia in Orthokeratology (ROMIO) Study: A 2-Year Randomized Clinical Trial. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2012;53:7077-85. (Go Back)
 Cho P, Cheung SW, Edwards M. The longitudinal orthokeratology research in children (LORIC) in Hong Kong: a pilot study on refractive changes and myopic control. Curr Eye Res 2005;30:71-80. (Go Back)
 Santodomingo-Rubido J, Villa-Collar C, Gilmartin B, et al. Myopia Control with Orthokeratology Contact Lenses in Spain (MCOS): Refractive and Biometric Changes. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2012. (Go Back)
 Walline JJ, Jones LA, Sinnott LT. Corneal reshaping and myopia progression. Br J Ophthalmol 2009;93:1181-5. (Go Back)
 Walline JJ, Rah MJ, Jones LA. The Children’s Overnight Orthokeratology Investigation (COOKI) pilot study. Optom Vis Sci 2004;81:407-13. (Go Back)
 Rah MJ, Walline JJ, Jones-Jordan LA, et al. Vision specific quality of life of pediatric contact lens wearers. Optom Vis Sci 2010;87:560-6. (Go Back)
 Walline JJ, Gaume A, Jones LA, et al. Benefits of Contact Lens Wear for Children and Teens. Eye Contact Lens 2007;33:317-21. (Go Back)
 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;86:222-32. (Go Back)
 Walline JJ, Long S, Zadnik K. Daily disposable contact lens wear in myopic children. Optom Vis Sci 2004;81:255-9. (Go Back)
 Walline JJ, Jones LA, Sinnott L, et al. A randomized trial of the effect of soft contact lenses on myopia progression in children. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2008;49:4702-6. (Go Back)
 Anstice NS, Phillips JR. Effect of dual-focus soft contact lens wear on axial myopia progression in children. Ophthalmology 2011;118:1152-61. (Go Back)
 Lam CS, Tang WC, Tse DY, et al. Defocus Incorporated Soft Contact (DISC) lens slows myopia progression in Hong Kong Chinese schoolchildren: a 2-year randomised clinical trial. Br J Ophthalmol 2014;98:40-5. (Go Back)
 Sankaridurg P, Holden B, Smith E, 3rd, et al. Decrease in rate of myopia progression with a contact lens designed to reduce relative peripheral hyperopia: one-year results. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2011;52:9362-7. (Go Back)
 Walline JJ, Greiner KL, McVey ME, et al. Multifocal contact lens myopia control. Optom Vis Sci 2013;90:1207-14. (Go Back)
 Wagner H, Chalmers RL, Mitchell GL, et al. Risk Factors for Interruption to Soft Contact Lens Wear in Children and Young Adults. Optom Vis Sci 2011;88:973-80. (Go Back)
 Wagner H, Richdale K, Mitchell GL, et al. Age, behavior, environment, and health factors in the soft contact lens risk survey. Optom Vis Sci 2014;91:252-61. (Go Back)
 Walline JJ, Lorenz KO, Nichols JJ. Long-term contact lens wear of children and teens. Eye Contact Lens 2013;39:283-9. (Go Back)
Jeffrey J. Walline, OD, PhD
Chair, Research and Graduate Studies
The Ohio State University College of Optometry