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Specs vs Contact Lenses

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 9 Dec 2014 | comments*Discuss
Specs Spectacles Glass Glasses Lens

Sight conditions such as long or short sightedness are common and children can be affected as well as adults. But when it comes to eyewear, what's best for your child - glasses or contact lenses?


Poor vision can hinder a child's growth and development, so it's important to take them to an optician for regular eye checks. These days, children's glasses are a lot funkier than the instantly spottable NHS glasses that were around in the 70s and 80s and there's a lot more choice available. Due to their active nature, children need tough glasses that won't break as soon as they have one little bump or scrape. Good quality plastic or metal frames are ideal, as well as models with flexible spring hinges.

It's also advisable to avoid lenses made of glass, as these can easily shatter and cause eye damage. Instead lenses made from a strong plastic called polycarbonate are the best bet as they are lighter and safer.

Making sure glasses fit well and are comfy is crucial. Design features such as adjustable nose pads and saddle bridges on children's specs help make them comfier, especially for younger children and smaller noses. With their fast growth, it's not uncommon for children to frequently need their glasses readjusted to fit their face, so don't worry if this happens to your child.

When not being worn, glasses should be kept in case to keep them safe. Taking off glasses may seem like a simple task, but to ensure no breakages take place, it's best to teach children to remove them using both hands, avoiding twisting the frame.

Contact Lenses

Young children aren't normally advised to have contact lenses unless a special eye condition warrants it. Although they're a good alternative to glasses for adults, their fiddly nature can be awkward for children to cope with.

However, contacts can certainly be an option for older children and teens. If they're particularly keen to give contacts a try, discuss the options with an optician and see what type would be best for them. As lenses are worn close to the eye, it's important to bear in mind the high level of care needed to ensure they are kept clean and safe. It's a commitment that kids need to take on board and, as parents; you may need to ensure they keep this up. Frequent eye checks are essential too, to ensure eyes remain healthy at all times.

For some, they take to lenses immediately and can't imagine life without them. But they're not for everyone. There's no harm in trying them, but don't despair if your child wants to move back to glasses. When choosing lenses or frames, be guided by the optician as to what will be best.

The good news is that children up to the age of 16 (and 19, if they're in full-time education) are entitled to free eye tests under the NHS. If they need glasses or contact lenses, you're also entitled to a voucher to use towards the cost. The value is determined by the type of prescription needed, but most opticians offer a range of high quality and affordable frames for children.

Whatever eyewear your child has, let them be involved in choosing them. You may think that practical brown frames will go with everything, but if they're set their heart on pink frames and can't bear not to have them, consider giving in and agreeing. After all, it will be them donning them and, when glasses or lenses are essential for sight, the last thing you want to do is put them off wearing them.

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