Children’s vision is a priority area for the College. This project sought to provide much needed, sound data relating to the scope, scale and nature of contact lens practice among optometrists in the UK in relation to children and young people. The developments in contact lens materials have increased the variety of products available, but there is very limited information about whether these changes have had any impact on optometric practice.

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Background

Why did we carry out the study?
We wanted to understand attitudes and behaviours towards prescribing contact lenses for children and young people. Until now this information about UK optometrists has not been available. These results can be used to build a picture of what is happening in practice, helping all optometrists understand how their prescribing habits compare with colleagues. The results can also be used as a benchmark to measure changes in the future.

International comparisons
The results from this survey can be used to make comparisons with the prescribing habits of optometrists in other countries. For example, a survey was performed by the American Optometric Association (AOA) in 2010 and the results from both surveys can be compared to see how UK and American optometrists differ in their practice. Initial comparisons show that for every age group, UK optometrists are less likely to prescribe contact lenses as a principal form of correction than US colleagues.

How might it affect your practice?

Having the opportunity to understand what colleagues are doing with regard to their practice in a particular area is a useful chance to reflect upon your own practice:

  • To what extent is your behaviour aligned with this general pattern?
  • What do you regard as the most important factors in determining whether it is appropriate to recommend contact lenses to a child / young person?
  • Do these findings make you think differently about your approach, or increase your confidence in your current approach?

Let us know your views on the findings and any suggestions for further research on this topic by emailing the research team: research@college-optometrists.org.

Key findings

Appropriate age to introduce a child to soft contact lenses

 

  • 92% of responding UK optometrists fitted contact lenses to patients under the age of 18.
  • As a primary form of correction, 0.4% reported that they would recommend contact lenses for under 8 year olds, 1.4% for 8-9 year olds, 7.1% for 10-12 year olds, 24.1% for 13-14 year olds and 44.6% for 15-17 year olds.
  • Respondents believed that the maturity of the child was more important than age in deciding whether they were suitable to be prescribed contact lenses. This view is supported by recommendations on prescribing in other studies1,2.
  • Other important factors optometrists take into account are the child’s interest and motivation to wear contact lenses, the child’s ability to take care of contact lenses and their personal hygiene habits.
  • The majority of respondents ranked daily disposable contact lenses as their first choice when fitting children and young people.
  • Nearly 60% said that interference with sports and other activities was the main reason given by parents asking for contact lenses, with self esteem factors being reported by just over a quarter of respondents.

References:

1 Walline JJ, Gaume A, Jones LA et al (2007) Benefits of contact lens wear for children and teens.  Eye and Contact Lens 33(6), 317–321.

2 Walline JJ, Lorenz KO, Nichols JJ (2013) Long-term contact lens wear of children and teens. Eye and Contact Lens 39(4), 283-9.

Other resources of interest

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