The Doctor Is In

QUESTION: My 14-year-old daughter’s teacher said he thought she might need glasses. Of course, my daughter cried and said she won’t wear them and she’d rather have contact lenses or even the Lasik surgery to correct her eyesight. Is 14 too young for contacts? How old do you have to be for the surgery? Are there other options?

DR. RASKIN: Teddy Roosevelt said, “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.” Although this is great advice for your 14-year-old daughter, if she can’t see the stars clearly, this would be a very difficult task.

When a teen has vision issues, what are the options? The first could be to show her how “in fashion” glasses are at the moment. With high-end designers such as Gucci, Dior and Prada all making frames for prescription glasses, your daughter could end up being the envy of all her classmates.

However, many kids feel self-conscious wearing eyeglasses or simply don’t like the way they look in glasses or are afraid of being called “four eyes.” Therefore, if she still refuses, there are alternatives.

She is definitely old enough to wear contact lenses. Physically, a child’s eyes can tolerate contacts at a very young age. Statistics show that four million American children under the age of 18 wear contacts.

In a recent study that involved fitting nearsighted children ages 8 to 11 with one-day disposable contact lenses, 90 percent of the kids had no trouble applying or removing the contacts without assistance from their parents.

For some kids who play sports, contacts provide an advantage in that they pose a reduced risk of eye injury due to broken glasses. They also provide better optics and peripheral vision compared with traditional glasses.

Another reason to consider having your child wear contacts is that in some cases, contact lens wear can slow the progression of nearsightedness in children. In fact, a number of recent studies have found that specially designed gas-permeable contacts can provide a significant amount of myopia (nearsightedness) control in many kids.

Lasik surgery, on the other hand, is only FDA approved for those 18 and older, so this is not an option for your daughter.

Most ophthalmologists encourage young adults to wait until their mid-20s before considering surgery because a person’s prescription may still be changing. Ideally, a good candidate for this vision surgery is someone whose prescription has been stable for two years.

Finally, don’t just accept your teacher’s advice that your daughter needs glasses. Maybe she is just bored in class or not paying attention. Take her to a reputable optometrist or ophthalmologist and discuss these options with the experts in the field.

Hellen Keller once said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision.” Please make sure your daughter has both.

Palisadian Damon Raskin, M.D., is a board-certified internist who offers preventative medicine, concierge services and addiction medicine to patients in and around the Palisades. Contact: 310-459-4333. To submit your medical questions, email frances@palipost.com.