Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Contact lenses for kids - a great idea.

I wrote this review while participating in an influencer campaign by Mumsnet on behalf of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

I don't remember exactly when I got contact lenses, but the impact they had on my life, at around 14/15 was huge. I wore glasses from the age of, I think, 7 (possibly younger, no one can quite remember), and as my sight was deteriorating, it was the delightful NHS range all the way. You know the ones. I had the nasty white/clear plastic 'crystal' ones. The range expanded to include ones with some nasty brown frames, which seemd like a better option - well, they say a change is as good as a rest - but really, they were terrible. I looked terrible and basically, I felt terrible. Not in any conscious way, I don't think, but I didn't want to be wearing glasses. As I hit my teenage years, I remember walking around in a blur with my specs stuffed up my sleeve, so much did I not want to wear them. For someone with a -4.5 prescription that was pretty bad.

Contact lenses revolutionised everything for me. A Mumsnet survey arried out earlier this year on behalf of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, part of Johnson & Johnson Medical Ltd., and manufacturer of ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses, covered the matter very thoroughly - it found that children who wear contact lenses feel better about their physical appearance, athletic ability and social acceptance compared with children who wear glasses. These children also report greater comfort with peer perception and higher satisfaction when engaging in social activities.Although there was the faff of caring for lenses (this is 26 years ago, we're talking, where the disposable lens wasn't as prevalent, and certainly wasn't offered to me as an option), life felt so much easier. I played a lot of hockey - that was easier without a pair of specs sliding down my nose all the time, and although appearance shouldn't matter, 26 years ago, specs for kids were not cool, so contact lenses did make me far more confident. In fact, I gained so much confidence over my appearance, that when I couldn't wear them for a time, I felt pretty comfortable going back to specs (although obviously not the NHS ones).

These days I wear monthly disposable lenses most of the time. They are easy, convenient, and improve my life in many ways - no misting up when I get something out of the oven or if it's raining, no sliding down my nose while I'm running, no tears when I chop up onions... I still feel a little less confident and outgoing in my specs, especially out of the house - mainly because I just don't see as well. The prescriptions are the same, but it's something about the all round vision that makes a difference.

As a long term glasses/lenses wearer, I will admit to being more than a little upset to find out that my boy was very shortsighted. His myopia was diagnosed before he was 1 during a check up for what turned out not to be a squint. Don't tell me how they managed to work it out, but there it was. And not just a little shortsighted - at the age of 1, he was sitting at -8 - twice as shortsighted as I am - and it has only got worse.

As he approached his 8th birthday, the wonderful consultant suggested trying contact lenses. The boy was reasonably ambivalent about it, but the Husband and I were keen to give it a go - crucially, while nothing has been proven, there was anecdotal evidence that wearing a particular type of lens could help slow his particular type of 'galloping myopia'.

2 years on, and Blue wears a type of gas permeable lens that we get on the NHS. I'll be the first to admit that it hasn't been easy. Gas permeable lenses are not as comfortable or as easy to get used to as soft, disposable lenses, and interestingly, despite initial enthusiasm, Blue was loathe to give up his glasses in case people didn't know who he was. Having worn specs since he was 1, I suspect he felt they were an integral part of him, rather than some annoying appendage. The Mumsnet survey indicates that about half (48%) of parents agree that their child likes wearing glasses, 39 percent say their child does not like wearing them, and 13 percent are unsure how their child feels about wearing glasses. Almost half of vision corrected parents (49%) agree that their child likes wearing glasses compared to 43 percent of non-vision corrected parents. I think the range of glasses available for children has improved significantly, and my boy definitely likes wearing his specs.

So how do contact lenses fit in, given that he likes wearing his glasses? Well, parental support is definitely key. The survey suggests that parents believe that the ‘right’ age for children to start wearing contact lenses is 14 years old. One fifth (21%) think it should be at age 16, while 13 percent believe a child can start wearing contact lenses at age 12. Only one in five parents (17%) are aware that children as young as 8-years old are capable of contact lens wear. I have to say I was surprised when it was suggested to us as an option, but as someone who has worn lenses, could see the obvious benefits. My own experience is also born out in the survey, which suggests that 70% of parents who themselves don’t need vision correction are significantly more likely to agree that that their child is not ready for contact lenses. I wear lenses - and was more open to the idea for my child.

Blue still, at the age of 10, can't put the lenses in for himself, but he has been able to take them out and clean them for himself for about a year. This means he can go to school with them in and deal with it if there is a problem (as long as he remembers his stuff). It's not been an easy relationship for him - the lenses do hurt if he's had a break from them, and it takes a bit of time to get used to them again, but the difference in him when he's wearing them is noticeable. For a start, he has peripheral vision, which is lost when he wears glasses. This means less tripping over. He can also see 'better'. How this works, I do  not understand, but the lenses and specs are the same prescription (he's now around -11), yet he can see further and more clearly with the lenses. This is great for him in school, and when he's playing his trombone in orchestra - the brass section is at the back, and with his specs on he can't always see the conductor...

Of course, the right age for introducing contact lenses to your child (or vice versa) depends on the child - this is something the consultant made clear to us when we first discussed it with him. The child does need to be relatively mature, and to be able to understand what's going on, and what to do if there is a problem, for example. But I think we give children less credit than they are due about how they might cope with something like contact lenses - it can be a great option.

1 comment:

  1. It's things like this that can have a huge impact on the confidence of a child... Brilliant! :)


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