Are Contact Lenses Safe for Children?

With the increase interest in fitting children in contact lenses, the question always comes up- “It is safe for children to wear contacts?”  Contact lenses can improve self-esteem and quality of life in children and teens along with being used to improve athletic performance.  They are also being used to control myopic progression. But are they safe?

Available evidence suggests that soft contact lenses can be safely prescribed to children and adolescents, with no increase in adverse effects compared to adults, according to a review in the June issue of Optometry and Vision Science, the official journal of the American Academy of Optometry.

The risk of safety problems from soft contact lens wear may even be lower in younger children compared to teens–possibly reflecting a lower rate of bad behaviors associated with increased risk for complications. The analysis focused on signs of possible inflammation/infection called “corneal infiltrative events.” Although these events are usually mild, about five percent are a serious infection called microbial keratitis. The highest-quality data came from nine prospective studies including 1,800 “patient-years” of soft contact lens wear in patients aged seven to 19 years. Analysis of the assembled data from nine prospective studies found a low rate of corneal infiltrative events: 136 events per 10,000 years. One large retrospective study suggested that the rate of these events was lower in younger children: 97 per 10,000 years in 8- to 12-year-old children, compared to 335 per 10,000 years in teens aged 13 to 17 years.  Microbial keratitis was uncommon, with no cases reported in the prospective studies. A retrospective study reported no cases of microbial keratitis in younger children. In teens, the rate of microbial keratitis was 15 cases per 10,000 years–similar to that reported in adults. The higher risk of complications in older patients seemed to be related to behavioral risk factors, such as showering and napping in soft contact lenses.

The take home result is that the incidence of corneal infiltrative events in children is no higher than in adults, and in the youngest age range…it may be markedly lower.  These studies provide reassurance as to the safety of soft contact lenses in children and teens. This evidence is reassuring but, I do believe this needs to be studied further.  Continued due diligence needs to be done on educating contact lens user’s habits.

We as a practice prefer to fit children in the safest lens modality- daily disposable contact lenses. We also have a contact lens trusted guarantee on contact lens exam follow ups, replacing ripped or torn lenses purchased from us, and exchange boxes if a poor tolerance develops to any brand of contacts.  We feel this further ensures our patient’s contact lens success.

Torrey Carlson, O.D.