Are contact lenses safe for children?
The track record of contact lens safety in young wearers
19 January 2021
In OT ’s guide, we have seen why children benefit from wearing contact lenses. But are they a suitable option for these youngsters?
In fact, there is mounting evidence to suggest that children can safely wear soft contact lenses as long as they are worn and cared for properly. It is rare for children or young people to have clinical complications with their lens wear and these seem to occur less frequently than in older wearers. This was shown in a recent analysis of six clinical studies, which reported no serious or significant complications in children during a total of 816 years of contact lens wear across the wearer group.
In a three-year clinical study where children wore contact lenses for myopia management, there were no reported serious or significant eye complications among 144 young participants.
A further clinical study examined the patient records of 3,500 soft contact lens wearers from as young as eight years old. Very few problems were reported among the younger wearers (aged eight to 12 years), despite the large number of patient records analysed.
To help report the figures in a meaningful way, the results were standardised to the number of complications for every 10,000 years of lens wear. The overall findings showed that contact lens complications were notably lower in young children than in other age groups, which may be due to an improved level of compliance. The rate of reported complications was just 97 per 10,000 years of wear in young children (aged eight to 12 years), 335 per 10,000 years in teenagers (aged 13 to 17 years), and 463 per 10,000 years in adults (aged 18 and older). Anecdotal evidence suggests that the differences in these age groups may be due to parents supervising younger children, who may also be better at taking instructions than their older teenage counterparts.
Contact lens complications were notably lower in young children than in other age groups, which may be due to an improved level of compliance
Studies have also reported other positive eye health-related findings, in addition to low levels of contact lens complications. This includes that contact lenses are no more likely than spectacles to cause meaningful increases in myopia or lengthening of the eyeball. Additionally, the evidence indicates that contact lens wearers who are fitted as children or as teenagers, can continue to successfully wear contact lenses for years to come. In summary, practice teams can confidently recommend contact lenses for younger patients and give them the opportunity to experience freedom from wearing spectacles.
Standardised data on contact lens wear
- 97 reported complications per 10,000 years of wear in young children (aged eight to 12 years)
- 335 per 10,000 years in teenagers (aged 13 to 17 years)
- 463 per 10,000 years in adults (aged 18 and older)
About the author
Krupa Patel is head of professional services for CooperVision UK & Ireland
CooperVision would like to acknowledge and thank Nathan Greenaway at Visioncare Research Limited for their support with this article.