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Children's Eyeglasses vs. Pediatric Contact Lenses

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedMarch 13, 2024

Vision correction is essential in children's development, allowing them to see clearly both near and far. Eyeglasses and contact lenses are the two primary options for correcting vision problems in children. Each offers distinct advantages and considerations regarding vision correction and comfort, maintenance and hygiene, impact on lifestyle and activities, aesthetics and self-esteem, and costs.

When selecting the appropriate vision correction modality for a child, the benefits and drawbacks of eyeglasses and contact lenses should be weighed carefully, along with the child's specific needs and preferences.

This article explores critical factors regarding eyeglasses and contact lenses for children, providing a helpful guide for determining the optimal vision correction solution.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Eyeglasses are a straightforward vision correction option for children requiring minimal maintenance but can cause peripheral vision distortion and discomfort for some kids.
  • Contact lenses provide a wider field of view and can boost self-confidence, but require diligent hygiene routines to prevent eye infections.
  • Maintenance for children's eyeglasses involves carefully cleaning lenses and handling frames to prevent scratches and breakage.
  • Contact lens maintenance demands strict hygiene, like handwashing and fresh solutions, to avoid eye health risks.
  • Eyeglasses allow freedom in activities without special care but can pose risks in sports; contacts enable active lifestyles and sports participation.
  • Some research indicates contacts can improve children's self-perception of appearance versus glasses, boosting confidence.
  • Costs for children's vision correction vary widely - eyeglasses are approximately $100-$200 annually, contacts $70-$900 depending on type.
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1. Vision Correction and Comfort

Vision correction for children encompasses various options, each with unique advantages and challenges. While eyeglasses have long been the traditional choice, technological advances have made pediatric contact lenses a viable and beneficial alternative for many.

Children's Eyeglasses

Eyeglasses for children offer several benefits for vision correction and comfort. They are a straightforward solution that requires minimal maintenance and does not necessitate direct contact with the eyes, which decreases the risk of eye infections.

Additionally, eyeglasses can adjust the amount of light entering the eye for optimal comfort and vision, with photochromic lenses automatically darkening in sunlight to protect the eye from UV rays. However, glasses sit about 12mm from the eyes, which can distort peripheral vision.

Some children may find glasses uncomfortable or feel that they detract from their appearance, especially if they have a strong prescription that results in thick lens edges or alters the perceived size of their eyes​​.

Pediatric Contact Lenses

Pediatric contact lenses offer a different set of advantages and considerations. They conform to the eye's curvature, providing a wider field of view with less vision distortion than glasses, which benefits active lifestyles and sports participation.

Special contact lenses, like corneal reshaping lenses, can offer uncorrected visual benefits by temporarily correcting myopia overnight, allowing children more freedom from wearing corrective lenses during the day. However, contact lenses can reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the eye, potentially exacerbating dry eye syndrome or contributing to computer vision syndrome.

Moreover, they require diligent care and cleaning to prevent eye infections. It's worth noting that children, particularly those using specialty lenses for myopia control, may experience a range of visual benefits without increased risks of adverse effects, provided they adhere to proper lens care practices​​​​.

2. Maintenance and Hygiene

Maintaining optimal eye health and vision correction efficacy in children requires attention to the cleanliness and care of their eyewear. Whether your child wears eyeglasses or contact lenses, understanding the importance of maintenance and hygiene is vital in preventing eye infections and ensuring the longevity of the vision correction solution.

Children's Eyeglasses

Maintaining children's eyeglasses involves simple practices to ensure they function correctly and last longer. The primary aspect of maintenance includes regular cleaning of the lenses with appropriate materials to avoid scratches and damage.

It's crucial to teach children to handle their glasses carefully, use both hands to put them on and off and store them in a protective case when not in use. Materials like polycarbonate are commonly used for children's eyeglasses because they are shatterproof and lighter than glass, making them safer and more durable for active children.

Specialized sports eyewear made from durable materials can provide additional protection if a child participates in sports or other high-impact activities.

Pediatric Contact Lenses

The maintenance and hygiene of pediatric contact lenses are significantly more demanding than those of eyeglasses due to the direct contact with the eye, which presents a higher risk for infections and other complications if not properly managed.

Parents play an essential role in ensuring their child follows a strict lens care regimen, including:

  • Proper hand washing before handling lenses
  • Using fresh solutions for cleaning and storing lenses
  • Following the prescribed wear and replacement schedules

Disposable lenses can be a convenient option as they reduce the need for daily cleaning. However, regardless of the type of contact lenses, it's vital to instill good hygiene practices to prevent eye infections and ensure the lenses do not compromise eye health.


For optimal contact lens care, prioritize strict hygiene: clean regularly, observe for any eye discomfort signs, and adhere to lens care instructions. Explore our guide on contact lens care for essential tips and best practices to maintain healthy eyes.

3. Lifestyle and Activities

Choosing the right vision correction solution for a child involves considering their lifestyle and activities. Eyeglasses and contact lenses offer distinct advantages that can align with different aspects of a child's daily life, from school and reading to sports and outdoor adventures.

Children's Eyeglasses

Eyeglasses for children are generally seen as less intrusive for everyday activities. They provide a simple solution for vision correction without special care during physical activities. However, glasses may be considered a hindrance during more active or contact sports due to the risk of breaking or losing them.

Pediatric Contact Lenses

Contact lenses offer greater freedom for children, especially those active or participating in sports. They eliminate the risk of glasses breaking during physical activity and provide a wider field of vision, which can benefit sports and other recreational activities. Special considerations, such as using swimming goggles to protect against bacterial contamination, are advised for activities like swimming​​.

4. Aesthetics and Self-Esteem

The impact of vision correction solutions on a child's aesthetics and self-esteem cannot be overstated. Eyeglasses and contact lenses do more than just correct vision; they significantly shape a child's self-image and social interactions.

Children's Eyeglasses

It is generally understood that children's perceptions of wearing eyeglasses can vary. Some children may feel self-conscious or face bullying due to wearing glasses, which can affect their self-esteem.

However, eyeglasses also offer a way for children to express their style through the choice of frames, potentially boosting their confidence if they feel their glasses enhance their appearance.

Pediatric Contact Lenses

Contact lenses can positively impact children's self-esteem and confidence, particularly during their teenage years. Shifting from eyeglasses to contact lenses can boost children's self-image and increase their confidence in social and academic settings.

A study indicated that children aged 8 to 11 years who wore contact lenses perceived themselves more positively regarding physical appearance, athletic competence, and social acceptance than those wearing glasses​​. The CDC also notes that wearing contact lenses may improve children’s perceptions of their physical appearance compared with wearing glasses and enhance their confidence in various settings​.

5. Cost

The cost of vision correction for children is essential for many families, with options ranging from affordable to premium based on the choice between eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Children's Eyeglasses

Prices for children's eyeglass frames can vary widely based on brand and material. At budget-friendly retailers like Walmart Vision Center, frame costs range from $9 to $48. Higher-end frames, especially from designer brands or specialized optical shops, can significantly exceed these prices​​.

The cost for basic polycarbonate lenses at Walmart starts at around $29, with an additional fee for anti-glare coating, bringing the total cost for a basic set of glasses (frames plus lenses) to between $38 and $97. Costco offers a similar price range, with total glasses costing around $100-110, including polycarbonate lenses with no-glare coating​​.

Pediatric Contact Lenses

The price for Pediatric Contact Lenses depends on the type and usage frequency, among other factors. Here are the common types and their associated costs:

  • Daily Disposable Contacts: These are the most convenient but tend to be more expensive due to their single-use nature, costing between $600 and $900 annually.
  • Biweekly Contacts: A more affordable option, with an average annual cost of $270 to $360.
  • Monthly Contacts: Offer a balance between affordability and maintenance, costing about $180 to $300 per year.
  • Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Contacts: These are durable and can correct a wide range of vision problems, with an annual cost of $70 to $190.
  • Extended-Wear Contacts: Designed for continuous use, including overnight, with annual costs between $360 to $520.
  • Toric, Multifocal, and Orthokeratology (Ortho-K) Lenses: These specialty lenses cater to specific vision correction needs such as astigmatism, presbyopia, and myopia control, with costs varying significantly based on the type. For example, Ortho-K lenses can have an initial cost of $1,000 to $4,000, with additional annual costs for maintenance.

Additional Costs:

  • Contact Lens Exam: The exam fee varies widely but generally ranges from $40 to $240, depending on the location and the type of exam. Retail outlets and discount stores may charge between $45 and $150, while private clinics charge more.
  • Contact Lens Fitting: Fitting fees can range from $25 to $250, with the higher end typically associated with specialty lens fittings.
  • Maintenance: For lenses that are not daily disposables, you'll need to purchase cleaning solutions, which can add approximately $150 to $200 to annual expenses.

Wrap Up

Eyeglasses and contact lenses offer effective solutions for correcting vision problems in children, with unique advantages and considerations.

Eyeglasses provide a simple, low-maintenance option, while contact lenses offer increased comfort and suitability for active lifestyles. Critical factors like vision correction needs, comfort, hygiene, self-esteem, lifestyle, and costs should be evaluated when selecting the optimal modality for a child. Children's preferences and responsibility regarding contact lens use should also be considered.

Ongoing eye exams and guidance from an optometrist are crucial to monitor prescription changes and ensure proper fit and care. With a thoughtful approach weighing the benefits and drawbacks of both options, eyeglasses or contact lenses can be an excellent aid to healthy visual development in children requiring vision correction.

📔 Related Articles

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FAQs about Children's Eyeglasses vs Pediatric Contact Lenses

How can a child be tested for glasses, especially in infancy or early childhood?

An ophthalmologist can perform a complete eye exam, often using eye drops to dilate the pupils for accurate measurement. Instruments like a retinoscope help find the correct prescription.

What should be considered when choosing lenses for children's eyeglasses?

Lenses like polycarbonate or trivex are recommended for their impact resistance, which is crucial for active children. Scratch-resistant and hard coatings can also increase longevity and protect the eyes from UV rays.

Children's Eyeglasses Picks:

Are contact lenses safe for children and teens?

Yes, when properly cared for. Contact lenses can be safer than glasses, especially during sports, as they reduce the risk of injury from broken frames or lenses. Proper hygiene and following wear schedules are crucial to avoid eye irritation or infections.​

Can children with high prescriptions wear contact lenses?

Yes, advancements in contact lens technology now allow for lenses that cater to high prescriptions, including those with moderate to high astigmatism.​