Contact lenses lend boost to kids' self-esteem

Children who begin wearing contact lenses for myopic correction benefit with significantly greater improvements in self-perception compared with their counterparts who wear glasses.

Orlando, FL-Children who begin wearing contact lenses (CLs) for myopic correction benefit with significantly greater improvements in self-perceptions compared with their counterparts who wear glasses, according to research presented by Jeffrey J. Walline, OD, PhD, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry.

Self-perceptions were determined using the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SSPC), which includes scales for global self worth (how well a child likes him or herself), social acceptance, athletic competence, physical appearance, scholastic competence, and behavioral conduct. The survey was administered at baseline, 1 month, and every 6 months thereafter by an examiner masked to the child's type of vision correction.

The children were enrolled in clinics at five optometry schools across the country. They had a mean age of 10.4 years and mean spherical error of –2.40 D. The majority were female (60%), and nearly 50% were Caucasian, but there was good representation of African American, Hispanic, and Asian children.

"The children enrolled in this study represent the average pediatric patient seen in optometry clinics every day, so we feel the findings can be easily applied to typical patients," said Dr. Walline, assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, Columbus.

Prior to randomization, the children were stratified so that males and females, children with low or high spectacle satisfaction, and those with spherical equivalent < –3.5 D or ≥ –3.5 D were equally represented in the two study groups.

"The questions were administered according to standardized protocol to avoid influencing the children's responses, and we do not think there was any significant confounding of the results because of unmasking," he said.

Positive benefits of CL wear

At 1 month, children who wore CLs had greater improvements in self-perception than those who wore spectacles. These improvements lasted for 3 years, and included physical appearance, athletic competence, and social acceptance.

In a subgroup of children identified at baseline as having low satisfaction with spectacle wear, those assigned to CL correction also had significantly better self-perceptions about their academic performance.

"It is likely that children who did not like wearing glasses simply did not wear them. Therefore, they struggled seeing the board and had difficulty in school. When they received [CLs], they wore their vision correction and felt better about their academic performance," said Dr. Walline.

"Spectacle wear does not necessarily decrease children's self-perceptions, but it may prevent them from improving over time. Our research suggests that the social benefits of [CL] wear should be considered when choosing a vision correction modality in young children," he said.