Ask Dr. Nate: Can Babies Really Use Contact Lenses?

I was just reading about babies that wear contact lenses. Is that really true? How do you know what lens to give them and how can they put them in?

Yes. It is true. But an infant doesn’t get contact lenses just because they don’t like their glasses. Infants as young as one week old may need contact lenses because that is the only way their eyes can get the best sight to ensure proper visual development. Infants might need contacts if they have had cataract surgery, have extremely high prescription glasses, or have very different prescriptions for the two eyes.

If an infant or very young child needs a contact lens, it can be a challenging  experience for everyone involved. For that reason, contact lenses are only recommended for infants in specific situations wear glasses will not work. After a comprehensive eye and vision exam, I will discuss contacts carefully with the parents and the process should only begin when they have a clear understanding of the risks and benefits of infant contact lens wear.

The benefits include:
· Improved vision with contacts
· Improved conditions for proper visual development
· Increased compliance when undergoing patching (occlusion) therapy

The risks are:
· Can be time consuming and stressful to insert and remove
· Possibility of irritation requiring removal of contact during the day
· Increased level of responsibility and care needed to monitor eyes
· Possibility of infection or ulcer of the eye, especially if proper lens hygiene not followed

Important information to know before we begin:
· Contact lenses must be removed every night for cleaning.
· It will be difficult at first to insert and remove the lens. This can be a two-person job.
· The contact lenses are custom made and may be expensive to replace if lost or damaged.

If you are a parent that has an infant or young children in contact lenses, the yahoo group Aphakic is a truly wonderful resource that I encourage you to check out. If you do need contacts for your child, inform yourself as much as possible and ask lots of questions of your eye doctor to make sure he or she is comfortable with the process.

See Well!

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

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  • Mariana

    My son has Duane Syndrome and the doctor today said that he has to wear contact lenses as he is not cooperating to wear glasses ……. What do you think?

    Does wearing glasses or contacts ever help people with Duane? I get mixed messages on this :(

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  • heidi

    My 3 month old just had to get a contact. He was born with a cataract so they removed the lenses along with the cataract. Now he has to wear a contact in that eye for the rest of his life. It is possible to get one in his eye but it is sooo much easier to do when he is sleeping.

  • http://brighteyesnews.com BrightEyesTampa

    Yes, putting the contact in while he is sleeping is a great idea. I know that lots of parents use this method as much as possible.

    Thanks for the suggestion!

    -Dr. B

  • http://brighteyesnews.com BrightEyesTampa

    Mariana, please see the response at:
    http://www.brighteyesnews.com/2009/04/08/ask-dr

  • ingridnelson

    Hi there,
    I got your contact details through Little Four eyes, of which I am a member. I just wanted to run a couple of thinks past you if I could. I have a two year old daughter, Paris, she has been wearing glasses for over a year. She is plano in her left eye and -4.5 in her right with some astigmatism correction as well – around 1, axis 90. She patches two hours per day. We saw our PO today ( we live in Australia) and he was pleased to say her acuity had improved from 3/18 to 3/12 in her myopic eye over the last few months of patching. Her script remains the same.
    She does have intermittent exotropia which is controlled well with the glasses however the drift is definitely more obvious and frequent without the glasses. The PO said the important thing was what her eyes are doing with the glasses on. As the eye gets better and she gets some fusion the eye will stay straighter and straighter. Would you agree with this? I also mentioned contacts as I read that contacts are a better option for children with large amounts of difference between the eyes – he said perhaps around age seven or eight? I was just hoping you could give me your opinion on this and what your course of action would be? Based on her condition, what is her prognosis for good vision and straight eyes. Thank you so much. Ingrid Nelson

  • Natebw

    Hello Ingrid,

    While it is impossible to give you specific advice without knowing all of the details, I can say a few general things.

    Two years older is harder with contacts than either two months old or four years old, but many two year old patients use contacts and it will give more natural vision and likely improve the time the eyes are straight.

    It is hopeful that her eyes will become more straight with time, but there is no guarantee and there are things you could be doing to assist her in developing convergence (skill at keeping eye in).

    Have you found an optometrist for an additional evaluation? Australia has many very good optometrists for children. Try this link, if you haven't already: http://www.acbo.org.au/

    All the best!

  • kaytee

    thank you for posting about contacts in infants. I am sick of the ignorance out there at times that dont realize we are not doing this for pleasure! lol My now 10 month old baby girl was born with bilateral congenital cataracts. They were not found till 4 months and she had surgery immediately. I am alos a member of the Aphakic site!
    While it might be easier sort term to put the contacts in or out while the infant is sleeping, most parents will agree its BEST to do it while they are awake. They get used to it. We have been doing contacts every day and night since November. Now my daughter rarely fights me, she rarely cries and jsut lets me. I still have to put my leg over her chest to hold her arms but no tears. It takes me 3 seconds!

  • http://brighteyesnews.com BrightEyesTampa

    Great advice Kaytee. You are right, kids are amazing and they will adapt to whatever is normal for them. I'm glad your little one is doing so well!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://brighteyesnews.com BrightEyesTampa

    Great advice Kaytee. You are right, kids are amazing and they will adapt to whatever is normal for them. I'm glad your little one is doing so well!

    Thanks for sharing!

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  • Salah MMJ

    hello Dr Nate
    my 4 month old girl has just underwent cataract surgery for her left eye and am about trying to find source for contact lens ,i hear about extended wear lenses that can be put continuously for up to 1 or may be more months ??!!
    what is your opinion about this lenses?
    I live in Iraq , if you please direct me to the best manufacturer for such lenses ?

    thanks

  • Nicollewagner

     I’m 15 years old now and I have quite bad myopia and astigmatism and had to get contacts when i was two years old or else i was at risk of completely losing vision in my right eye and up until i was about 7/8 my mom had to put them in and take them out but since then i’ve been doing it on my own as long as you keep them clean, take them out at night and wash you hands when youre going to handle them you should be fine and i would say if you’re a parent having to handle your child’s lenses to keep short nails and maybe reward them at first until they get used to them at least thats what my parents did with me when i first got them as a baby they would reward me will dolls or candies if i was good when wearing them which i would say really helped to take my mind of the fact that i had something unusual in my eye. I would also recommend to take some days off to stay with your child and be with them all day when they first get their contacts to make sure they dont fall out or something like that :)
    i have soft lenses by the way and also have glasses for when im not wearing my contacts ie. the evening before going to bed or in the morning before getting ready
    hope this helps!

  • Juliette Vignola

    Hi Dr Nate, I want to share with you a wonderful new resource for parents of aphakic children and for the aphakic children themselves. I have written a book, “Samantha Wears a Contact Lens and Patch… JUST LIKE YOU!” and it is available on Amazon in both English and Spanish. I am not trying to spam you but think your patients will really enjoy this beautifully illustrated book which walks through a day in the life of a child who wears contact lenses and patches. I would love if you would review the book and list it under your “Books” section on your blog.

    http://www.amazon.com/Samantha-Wears-Contact-Lens-Patch/dp/1492239879/