A brand new American study clearly shows that soft contacts are safe for children and adolescents to wear. This study also suggests that soft contacts may actually be safer on children than on adults.
Mark Bullimore, a professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry, was the lead researcher on this study. Bullimore's key interest in his research was looking at the rate of "corneal infiltrative events" in children versus adults.
For those who don't know, corneal infiltrative events are infections that often travel via contact lenses and adversely affect a person's eyes. While most of these infections are no big deal, a small percentage of these events can cause potentially blinding diseases. One of the more serious corneal infiltrative events is called microbial keratitis.
Bullimore's largest data pool came from nine studies of soft contact users between the ages of seven and 19. These cases totaled an impressive 1,800 patient years. In all of these studies, Bullimore determined the rate of corneal infiltrative events in children and adolescents to be only 136 events every 10,000 years.
Amazingly, the younger the patient was, the lower the chance was for developing a corneal infiltrative event. Bullimore showed that children between the ages of 8 and 12 had only 97 events per 10,000 years. In contrast, adolescents aged 13 to 17 had 335 cases every 10,000 years.
While adolescents had about 15 cases of microbial keratitis every 10,000 years, younger children had zero cases of the serious infection. Interestingly, adults have the same rate of microbial keratitis as teens.
Bullimore believes older patients have higher risks for corneal infiltrative events because they tend to be more lax in their lens hygiene practices. Teens and adults take more dangerous risks with their contacts such as wearing them in the shower or while sleeping.
This research clearly shows that soft contact lenses are a great option for younger patients. Multifocal lenses in particular have shown great promise in slowing the progression of myopia in nearsighted children. Also, Bullimore says that soft contact lenses can boost a child's self-esteem, which makes it more likely s/he will wear them more often.
No matter what age a contact wearer happens to be, it's critically important to practice immaculate contact lens hygiene. A few practices every contact wearer must take seriously include washing your hands before picking up contacts, never putting contacts near water, treating the lenses with a high quality solution, and never wearing contacts to bed. It's also recommended to use daily disposable lenses to dramatically cut your risk for infections.
People interested in investigating Bullimore's research can check out the full study in the medical journal Optometry and Vision Science. The study was published under the title "Are soft contact lenses safe for children? Risks seem no higher than in adults."