If you’re wondering when you should get contact lenses, you should know that the best way to answer that is to visit your eye doctor. Choosing contact lenses will depend on several factors, such as your age, lifestyle, and ability to clean your lenses.
Outside of visiting your eye doctor and discussing your best options for eyewear, here are a few additional questions, answers, and explanations regarding contact lens wear, straight from Edwin Wallington, OD.
Q: When should you get contact lenses?
A: “Whenever you are ready for contacts, they are ready for you.”
Perhaps you think this is too simple of an answer, but according to Dr. Wallington, it’s not. Contacts are designed for just about anybody and for all walks of life. If you’re wondering: “When should you get contact lenses?” it’s time to talk to your doctor. You just need to let your eyecare provider know that you’re interested and they will help you find a fit that is best for you.
Q: Can I wear contacts?
A: “You likely can wear contacts, just as long as you take the necessary time to learn how to put them in, take them out, and take care of them.”
It is true that even though every eye is completely unique and has its own appearance and physical design. However, there are thousands upon thousands of different contact lens powers and designs that can meet the different needs of different people from all walks of life. Yes, your eye is unique, but there is likely a contact lens (and more likely, even many types of contact lenses) that will work for you.
Q: How can I get contacts?
A: “Get an eye exam and tell your eyecare provider that you are interested in contacts.”
It’s as simple as that—the first thing that your doctor needs to know is that you are interested in contacts. If you don’t let your doctor know that you are interested, then they cannot complete a proper fit for you. The contact lens exam requires not only certain tests to determine the best fit for you, but also an in-depth discussion about your specific lifestyle and needs to find the best type of contact lens that is right for you.
Q: Can I wear contacts with my prescription?
There are contacts for almost all types of prescriptions. You can wear contacts if you have myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightidness), presbyopia (loss of your near focus), or astigmatism (two points of focus). It is very unlikely that there is not a contact lens design for your particular prescription.
Q: What is the minimum age for contacts?
A: “There is no minimum age for contact lenses.”
Parents often wonder what age a child should start wearing contacts. Every child is different, and as the parent, you are the best person to make the decision if your child is ready to take on the responsibility of contact lens care. Therefore, it is not so much about how old a child should be before using contact lenses, but more about how responsible they are. Besides, sometimes young children listen better and follow rules better than teenagers.
Contacts require responsible care. Without responsible care, improper contact lens wear can lead to corneal damage that could even cause vision loss.
When my optometric team teaches a contact lens class, they make sure that the wearer—regardless of the age—understands proper care instructions that include:
- storing lenses
Getting young wearers in good contact lens-wearing habits is key and in some cases, waiting for them to become a teenager may actually be a missed opportunity.
As an eye doctor, Dr. Wallington explains this to the parent and lets them make the decision if their child is ready for the responsibility. And if the parent determines “not yet” for their children, it may be enough incentive for their child to start cleaning their room, taking out the garbage, and getting their homework done on time to demonstrate that they are responsible enough for contact lens wear. Most eyecare providers have a similar view, though some are less comfortable with fitting early elementary children.
Q: Can I wear contact lenses after I wear a bifocal?
A: “As long as you have become wiser with age, you are likely still able to wear contacts.”
Adults often wonder if there is an age when contact lenses can no longer be worn. In Dr. Wallington’s experience, full-time (all day) contact lens wear actually does become more difficult as the oil glands of the lids begin to atrophy—something that happens naturally with age.
Less oil in the eye allows for more evaporation and, henceforth, creates a greater tendency for dry eye. The need for a stable tear is amplified with contact lens wear, and not only does the contact fit design become more specified, but so does the patient’s need to be more aware that their eye is changing. Translation? They can’t wear their contacts in the same way as they did when they were twenty.
This dry eye problem becomes more prominent after sixty years of age and creates more limitations on contact lens designs and wearing schedules. But it doesn’t mean that contacts cannot be worn anymore—it just means that patients may have to wear their lenses a little wiser to make it work. Your eyecare provider will help you find the best design for maximal comfort and give you tips on how you can prolong contact lens wear for many years into the future.
Q: Can I wear contacts if I work on the computer and my eyes get irritated?
Did you know that when we concentrate our blink rate goes down? It’s true. For example, imagine that you’re watching the Rock (you can imagine Dwayne Johnson or Balboa, depending on your era) jump from one high ledge to another. You may be so involved in the drama that you forget to blink, and a tear may even roll out of the corner of your eye. No, you’re not sad. This is just a normal response to when you don’t blink—your brain just doesn’t want to miss any of the action of the intense situation, so your eye stays open to catch all the details.
Reduced blink rate increases eye exposure to air and, therefore, evaporation. When your eye dries out, it causes the eye to tear. It may seem counterintuitive, but answer this question to better understand—what happens when there is a fire in a building? The sprinklers turn on. Your eye works the same way.
When your eye gets dry, it waters. Yes, a watery eye tends to be a sign of a dry eye. Therefore, a good blink rate keeps resetting our tears to stabilize our tear layer and maximize vision and comfort. So, why is this important to you, a computer person?
Well, let’s say that you sit in front of a computer for hours on end, and you concentrate for an extended period of time, what do you think happens to your blink rate and your tear layer? That’s right! You blink less and your eyes may get dry/watery. So, in certain situations, a simple answer may simply be to blink more. Look away. Reset your tears every now and then, and you will ultimately have a better experience.
Since dry eye conditions can bother your eyes even if you don’t wear contacts, you may make you wonder if you should wear contact lenses. On top of the “blink more” and “look away” pointers that I just offered, there are many different contact lens designs that are designed to function better in your particular workplace experience. So, even when you may think that your eyes can’t wear contacts, have a discussion with your doctor if you are interested in contacts, and your doctor will likely find a contact lens that is perfect for you.
Q: Should I wear contacts instead of glasses?
A: “Not usually.”
Contacts should always be used in conjunction with glasses when you have a prescription that limits your vision. For example, if your eyes get red, the first thing that you should do is take your contacts out.
If you rely completely on contacts for vision and you must drive home, you’re not likely to take them out of your eyes, are you? And the longer that contact stays in your eye, the more damage that will occur. Contacts should always be used in conjunction with glasses.
Q: “OK, for real: Should I wear contacts?”
A: “Since you have read this far down the article, yes.”
Obviously, you’re interested. Check with your eyecare professional to find out what contact is right for you.