Contact Lens Wear For Infants

When wearing eyeglasses isn't a practical option for correcting an infant's vision, an optometrist may prescribe contact lenses. Although parents must insert the lenses, contact lenses contribute to a child's normal vision and brain development. If your infant is fitted with contact lenses, whether for one or both eyes, there are things you need to know about lens care and wear.

Why Doctors Prescribe Them

Eye doctors often prescribe contact lenses for infants who need strong prescription eyeglasses, require a different prescription lens for each eye, or have had cataract surgery. While inserting or removing contact lenses from your baby's eyes involves time and patience, improved vision and proper development of your infant's vision are key benefits. But there are things associated with infants wearing contact lenses that you should know in order to protect the health of your child's eyes.

  • You must remove the lenses every night to clean them to prevent your infant from developing an eye infection.
  • Sometimes you may have to remove the lenses during the day if your infant's eyes become irritated.
  • It may take two people to insert or remove the lenses from an infant's eyes, especially if your baby resists.
  • Because your baby's eyes will change often during the first year of life, his or her lens prescription may change frequently.
  • If your infant must wear a lens in each eye, you need to be careful not to mix them up.

Depending on your infant's vision problem, contact lenses may be considered a medical necessity. In that case, your health insurance plan may pay at least part of the cost. But keep in mind that contact lenses for infants can be expensive to replace if you lose them or they become damaged.

Infants who are candidates for contact lenses include:

  1. Premature infants who are at risk for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) -- the abnormal development of blood vessels in the retina of the eye. The March of Dimes estimates that 14,000 to 16,000 infants born prematurely in the U.S. develop this eye disease. While most cases are mild, some infants suffer severe vision problems or become blind.

  2. Infants born with a congenital cataract. Although the lens of the eye normally is clear, if it's clouded at birth, cataract surgery to remove the clouded lens may be required. Cataracts can occur in one or both eyes, but because a child's eyes grow rapidly, cataract surgeons often decide not to replace a cataract with an artificial lens implant. Since glasses can be difficult for an infant to wear, the doctor may prescribe contact lenses following cataract surgery

Steps for inserting and removing contact lenses from an infant's eyes:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly before starting to prevent transferring germs from your hands to the lens and then from the lens to your baby's eyes.
  2. Remain calm. Your child will sense if you are anxious and may fuss more as you are working.
  3. If your infant wears a lens in each eye, always begin with the same eye when inserting or removing the lenses.
  4. If you are unable to manage the task alone, have someone hold your infant's top eyelid open while you hold open the bottom lid and insert the lens. Even if you can put in or remove the lenses yourself, having another person hold and soothe the baby during the process can help.
  5. Place the contact lens on the lower lid and then gently slide it onto the eye.
  6. When removing a lens, open your infant's top and bottom eyelids as wide as possible. With your thumb and index finger, gently push the lids together to pop out the lens.

For more information about contact lenses, visit Dr Ron Sealock.