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Girl, 6, a 'pro' at managing her hard contact lenses

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. -

Briana Schwartz has a pretty strong Kindergarten skill-set.

She shares her crayons with her mom Erin.

She's good with colors.

Stays between the lines.

But when she steps in front of a mirror, the Alpharetta 6 year old becomes a real pro, putting in and taking out her own hard contact lens.

Her mom Erin Schwartz says, "it's nothing. It's "I need your contact!" Okay! Takes it right out."

Briana's been wearing a contact lens since she was two months old.

She was born with a cataract, or clouding of the lens of her left eye.

A doctor noticed it when she was just a day old. Her mom says, "We were very shocked. We weren't sure exactly how it happened. Or why it happened."

When she was a month old, Briana had surgery to remove her cataract.

Once the clouded lens is removed, most adults and babies with cataracts receive a permanent artificial lens, called intraocular lens (or IOL) to correct their vision.

The Emory Eye Center pediatric opthamologist Dr. Scott Lambert says for the last decade, IOLs have worked so well in adults, they been using them in younger and younger children. He says, "Initially it was children over two. Then one. Then they started putting them in very young infants."

But, Dr. Lambert says, babies with IOLS are more likely to have problems with inflammation and lens regrowth after cataract surgery,

Briana was part of a 5-year study called the IATS Study to compare the artificial lenses - with contact lenses – in babies.

She was in the group that received the contact lens.

Dr. Lambert says the found both lenses worked equally well in correcting vision He says, "The difference was that you had to do a lot more operations in the children that had the intraocular lens. So although the vision was the same, they had to go through additional surgeries."

Still, he says, "We're not saying you should never do that (use an IOL), but I think if the family can manage the contact lens, it's better to go with the contact lens."

Erin Schwartz has been putting in and taking out Briana's hard gas-permeable lens since Briana was 8 weeks old. She says,

I think the biggest challenge was putting it in, taking it out, making sure it's clean, taking care of it properly."

When Briana was four, she wanted to put in her contacts on her own. So, that's what she does.

Briana can decide when she's older, if she'd like the permanent lens.

But for now, she's the contact kid.

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