While some children enjoy the fashion statement of eyeglasses, others prefer their appearance without them. For young children or teens who refuse to wear their glasses, many parents are left with the plaguing question, "Is my child old enough to wear contact lenses?" Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer. Physically, the eyes can tolerate contact lenses at a very young age. In rare cases, some babies are fitted with contact lenses at birth. Similarly, in a recent study that involved fitting nearsighted children ages 8 to 11 with one-day disposable contact lenses, 90 percent had no trouble applying or removing the contacts without the assistance from their parents.* The decision of whether a child is ready to wear contact lenses is directly related to their maturity, and should be determined by the parent, child and your eye care professional.
If you considering contact lenses for your child, take a look at how they handle other responsibilities. If your child requires frequent reminders to do their everyday chores, they may not be ready for the responsibility of wearing and caring for contact lenses. On the contrary, children who dutifully handle their responsibilities may be great candidates for contact lenses.
On average, many eye care professionals begin to encourage contact lens wear between the ages of
11 to 14. Compared to adults, children develop fewer complications with contact lenses, have stronger immune systems and usually heal faster. In addition, children who want contacts instead of glasses are often more willing to adapt their schedules and follow the instructions to properly care for their lenses.
In addition to being great self-esteem builders, contact lenses are also great for student athletes. Contact lenses are not a complete substitute for sports that require protective eyewear. However, some contact lenses used for recreational use can provide better optics than eyeglasses. Compared with eyeglasses, contact lenses provide better peripheral vision, which may improve your child's athletic performance.
It's important to establish a dialogue with the parents when determining if a child is ready for contact lenses, and to remember the decision to switch from glasses to contact lenses does not need to be a permanent one. If a child does not adjust well, or is not able to handle the added responsibility of wearing and caring for their lenses, it is no problem to recommend glasses as an alternative for vision correction. Contact lenses can always be tried again when the child is older.
To determine if contact lenses are right for your child or teen, please call us to schedule an appointment! Our doctors will help you and your child make this important decision. *"Daily disposable contact lens wear in myopic children."
Optometry and Vision Science. Vol. 81, No. 4 (April 2004); pp. 255-259.
Photo Courtesy of Sira Anamwong
Have you had your spinach today? The savory dark-green leafy green, among many vibrantly colored vegetables and fruits, is frequently overlooked, and often nonexistent on the plates of Americans across the country.
We often hear why we need fruits and veggies - for heart health and cancer prevention. Now we can add to that list "eye health" - something that's so often taken for granted when we're young. But, don't assume your vision will keep getting worse as you age and that there's nothing you can do about it. You can do something about it.
"Nutrition is critical," says Robert Abel, Jr., M.D., clinical professor of Ophthalmology at Thomas Jefferson University and author of "The Eye Care Revolution." A firm believer that the eyes can be a good indicator for general body health, Abel adds, "We need an orchestra of nutrients, not just one player" for good eye health. The nutrient "players" at the top of the good eye-health chart are largely found in fruits and veggies. So, make sure you're consuming a total of five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. That's a minimum!
Where to Begin
Are certain fruits and veggies better than others for eye health? Yes. But just eating more fruits and vegetables period is the best place to begin. According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, just 27 percent of women and 19 percent of men report eating the Food Guide Pyramid-recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Maye Musk, a registered dietitian, international speaker, and author of "Feel Fantastic" and "Executive Stamina" says, "Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially dark-colored ones like carrots, broccoli and Hubbard squash" is important for the eyes. The deep-colored fruits and vegetables are typically "good sources of beta-carotene and many, many carotenoids," she adds. Beta-carotene and certain carotenoids (plant pigments) are just a handful of the array of nutrients linked to good eye health.
Let's take a closer look at some of the vital vision-healthy nutrients, especially those so richly found in veggies, fruits and other plant-based foods.
A water-soluble vitamin and effective antioxidant, vitamin C helps keep eyes young and healthy by protecting some parts of the eye against damage caused by ultraviolet light. Antioxidants are substances that help protect cells from the natural but damaging effect of oxidation.
Barbara Gollman, M.S., R.D., an expert on functional foods and phytochemicals and co-author of "The Phytopia Cookbook: A World of Plant-Centered Cuisine," says, "Vitamin C might help prevent cataracts or delay their development, but studies do not confirm this yet." Cataracts, a clouding of all or part of the lens of the eye, cause blurred or dimmed vision and unusual sensitivity to light.
Think of vitamin C as an age-protector for your eyes, kind of the way rust-protector is for your car or wrinkle cream is for your skin. Thanks to the popularity of OJ, most Americans meet their minimum vitamin C needs, which is 75 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams for men.
But studies indicate we might need as much as 300 milligrams, possibly more, for a cataract-preventive effect. Where do you find vitamin C besides citrus fruits? Go for guava, red bell peppers, papaya, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, mango, strawberries, raspberries and pineapple.
This fat-soluble vitamin and potent antioxidant, may help in prevention of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common eye disease associated with aging. AMD impairs vision by affecting the macula, a small spot in the center of the retina where vision is sharpest. Blurred vision is often the first symptom of this leading cause of irreversible blindness in people over age 65.
Abundant in the food supply, vitamin E is especially high in vegetable oils. That's one good reason why we don't want to overdo our "fat-free" eating. Some of the best sources of vitamin E: wheat germ oil, sunflower seed kernels, sunflower oil, hazelnuts, almonds, cottonseed oil, wheat germ, papaya, fortified cereals and peanut butter.
This trace mineral may have a protective effect on the development of some forms of early AMD. As zinc is acutely concentrated in the eye, Dr. Abel says zinc is "very important for the retina," the back part of the eye that senses light.
Zinc intake seems to drop as we age - when our eyes need it most. To be sure you're getting enough zinc, enjoy wheat germ, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, sunflower seeds, almonds, tofu, brown rice, milk, ground beef and chicken.
A carotenoid and antioxidant, beta-carotene aids in night vision and maintaining good vision. It may play a small role in cataract prevention. Luckily, beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body, is easily obtained through the diet. Gollman suggests, "Beta-carotene supplements are not recommended."
Don't worry about eating too much beta-carotene. Your skin might temporarily turn an unusual shade of orange, but it's harmless. For a beta-carotene boost, choose apricots, carrots, sweet potatoes, collard greens, beet greens, turnip greens, kale, spinach, papaya, red bell pepper, cantaloupe, winter squash and romaine lettuce.
Carotenoids are antioxidants that are plant pigments. This category is considered by many eye-care and nutrition experts to be the most promising of the eye-protective nutrients. Over 600 carotenoids are known, though just a handful are found in the diet and even fewer are found in the human body. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin are all found in the body, but only lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the eye.
Specifically, these two carotenoids help maintain the health of the retina and macula, potentially "protecting against AMD" adds Gollman. Carotenoids give foods their rich colors. They give spinach, kale and broccoli their delicious orange-yellow color. Huh?
Actually the carotene is disguised as dark green by the chlorophyll in their leaves. Carotenoids also make tomatoes ruby red, watermelons vivid pink, and sweet potatoes deep orange.
So, "color" your plate happy - it'll make your eyes healthy!
Myths About Your Eyes and Vision
Eating Carrots Will Improve Your Vision
Fact: Carrots are high in vitamin A, a nutrient essential for good vision. Eating carrots will provide you with the small amount of vitamin A needed for good vision, but vitamin A isn't limited to rabbit food; it can also be found in milk, cheese, egg yolk, and liver.
Sitting Too Close to the TV Will Damage Your Vision
Fiction: Sitting closer than necessary to the television may give you a headache, but it will not damage your vision. Children may do this to see the TV more clearly. They may, in fact, need glasses.
Reading in the Dark Will Weaken Your Eyesight
Fiction: As with sitting too close to the television, you may feel eyestrain or get a headache from reading in the dark, but it will not weaken your eyes.
Using Glasses or Contacts Will Weaken My Eyesight, and My Eyes Will Eventually Become Dependent On Them
Fiction: Your eyes will not grow weaker as a result of using corrective lenses. Your prescription may change over time due to aging or the presence of disease, but it is not because of your current prescription.
Children With Crossed Eyes Can Be Treated
Fact: Children are not able to outgrow strabismus -- the medical term for crossed eyes -- on their own but, with help, it can be more easily corrected at a younger age. That's why it is important for your child to have an eye exam early, first when your child is an infant and then again by age two.
There's Nothing You Can Do to Prevent Vision Loss
Fiction: At the very first sign of symptoms, such as blurred vision, eye pain, flashes of light, or sudden onset of floaters in your vision, you should see your doctor. If detected early enough, depending on the cause, there are treatments that can correct, stop, or at least slow down the loss of vision.
Using a Nightlight in Your Child's Room Will Contribute to Nearsightedness
Fiction: It has been thought that using a nightlight in your child's bedroom may contribute to nearsightedness, however there is not enough evidence to support this claim. Keeping a nightlight on in your baby's room may actually help them learn to focus and develop important eye coordination skills when they are awake.
Looking Straight at the Sun Will Damage Your Sight
Fact: Looking at the sun may not only cause headache and distort your vision temporarily, but it can also cause permanent eye damage. Any exposure to sunlight adds to the cumulative effects of ultraviolet radiation on your eyes. UV exposure has been linked to eye disorders such as macular degeneration, solar retinitis, and corneal dystrophies. The most dangerous time for sun gazing is during a solar eclipse. The brightness of the sun is hidden; but the dangerous invisible rays that permanently burn your eyes are not reduced.
Using Artificial Sweeteners Will Make Your Eyes More Sensitive to Light
Fact: If you use artificial sweeteners, like cyclamates, your eyes may be more sensitive to light. There are other factors that will make your eyes more sensitive to light as well. They include antibiotics, oral contraceptives, high blood pressure drugs, diuretics, and diabetic medications.
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