Soft Contact Lenses are Safe for Kids
It has long been thought that soft contact lenses are not safe for kids due to higher infection rates. However, a new review conducted by the University of Houston's College of Optometry (UHCO) has found that infection rates associated with soft contact lenses are no higher in kids than adults. Review author Mark Bullimore, an adjunct professor at UHCO, recently noted in an interview with WebMD that, "In the past decade, there has been increasing interest in fitting children with contact lenses." To reach the conclusion that is detailed in the UHCO report, Professor Bullimore reviewed 9 studies that contained information on children aged 7 to 19 that use contact lenses. Bullimore was looking for a higher incidence of corneal inflammation and infection, conditions he termed "corneal infiltrative events." Bullimore noted that such events are usually mild in their manifestation, but that around 5 percent result in serious infections called microbial keratitis. In his review of these past studies Bullimore found that a relatively low rate of such corneal infiltrative events among youths. In fact, one of the larger studies actually showed a lower rate of infectious events in younger children (aged 8 to 12). Teens aged 13 to 17 had higher rates than their younger counterparts, but not higher than adults.
As for the more serious microbial keratitis, Bullimore found it was not only uncommon (overall), but that no such infections had occurred in younger children...and that the rates of this serious infection for kids aged 13 to 17 were no greater than in adults.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Bullimore suspects that younger kids don't shower or sleep/nap with their contact lenses in as often as teens do. These activities increase the risk of corneal infiltrative events (according to Bullimore).
Bullimore emphasizes in a new journal news release that these findings should reassure parents about the safety of soft contact lenses in children and teens. Add to the relative safety factor the concept of not having to wear "glasses," well, with kids and teens this can be a boost to self esteem and self image. Not that glasses are "uncool," per say, but every little bit helps in those impressionable years. Further, soft contacts have been shown to prevent or slow the progression of nearsightedness in children Bullimore has said. Further, according to Bullimore:
[su_quote]The overall picture 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," Bullimore wrote in the review, adding that "greater parental supervision may also help to mitigate risks.[/su_quote]
Finally, Bullimore noted that all soft contact lenses now approved for daily and overnight wear have no age restrictions. Header Image Courtesy: allaboutvision.com