Too Cool For School: Many Teenagers Wear Contact Lenses for Sports Only

Have you ever wondered if your teenage kids could wear contacts? Quite frequently we have parents of teens or pre-teens bring their kids in for an eye exam to get fit in contact lenses. Our eye doctors will invariably ask what situations you want them for. More than half the time, the response is that they are for sports. Sometimes they have a mild Rx and have been able to play their chosen sport(s) without correction but want to up their game with fully optimized vision. Many teenagers wear contact lenses for sports (or other school-related tasks), and this blog post will help parents and students figure out what makes sense for your specific visual demands.

Lots of teenagers wear contact lenses for after-school sports. Others wear them all day long, on and off the playing field.

Often these teenage patients have been missing out on sports altogether or trying to play with glasses on. Both Doctors Cannon have run several half marathons, Dr. Mark played ultimate Frisbee in college, still races bikes, etc., so we hate to think of any student missing out on their chance to find their preferred sport.

The health benefits of getting regular exercise are well known. Recent studies have indicated that finding a love of working out at a young age makes you much more likely to be athletic (and leaner) lifelong.

In general when patients ask me if they are a good candidate for contact lenses, I let them know that you are a good candidate if you need to wear glasses all day long but don’t want to. This of course includes a huge swath of the population, but not all of us. Plenty of Americans walk around with a constant slight blur to their distance vision, near vision, or both.

For example, many people feel like they see well enough if they can pass the drivers license vision exam. Others have very visually demanding jobs, like our many Seattle-area computer programmers and physicians. You don’t want your surgeon working on you if he is a little blurry in one eye, right?

Athletes perform at a higher level when their vision is optimally corrected. Yet glasses can get in the way of doing your best at many types of sports. Yes, there are Rx goggles that can be worn, but quite often the best option for sports vision is to have the athlete wear contacts; regardless of whether their prescription is mild or intense.

Quite often the standards doctors use for who might need contacts is different when working with athletes. A mild amount of blur (resulting from a diopter or less of myopia, astigmatism, or hyperopia) can cause a measurable loss of performance for athletes, but others may not be bothered by such mild blur.

Some students in middle school and high school do wear contacts all day; not just for sports. Many students simply see better in contacts than in glasses (this is true of patients who are moderately or severely near-sighted).

Others have an Rx that is considerably different between the two eyes, a condition called anisometropia, and these people just don’t do very well in glasses for numerous reasons. So there are many more reasons for teenagers to wear contact lenses than just vanity and for sports.

A note to the teenage contact lens wearers regarding health and safety: you should avoid over-wearing your contacts. No doubt you have friends who even sleep in their lenses; many of those kids will end up hurting themselves with contacts. Take your lenses out a few hours before bed every night to avoid the risks of Contact Lens Over-Wear.

If you feel like you or your kids could have a more rewarding educational (and extra-curricular) experience if they had contacts, you are probably right. Talk to them about contacts, and make an appointment with your local eye doctor. So yes, lots of pre-teens and teenagers wear contact lenses, and you may find that giving your kid this option is a real game-changer.

Sincerely, Dr. Mark Cannon, optometrist @ Cannon EyeCare (at Market Optical) in Seattle, Washington

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