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July 28th, 2010
04:49 PM ET

Contact lenses a top cause of kids' injuries

They're tiny, translucent and for kids, they're a pain in the eye.

Contact lenses are the most common cause of medical-device associated injuries among children over the age of 11, according to research published this week in Pediatrics.  The article reviewing medical records from 100 hospital emergency departments between 2004 and 2005, estimated that nearly 34,000 (or 23 percent) of annual cases were due to contact lens injuries in children and teens. 

Contact lenses and glasses accounted for 40 percent of all medical device associated injuries. The lenses were associated with corneal abrasions, ulcerations and conjunctivitis (swelling or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids).  Eyeglasses were reported to cause lacerations to the eyes or face.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology issued a statement reiterating that contact lenses are medical devices that require a prescription, proper fitting by an eye care professional and proper care by the consumer.

If children experience pain, burning, redness, tearing or sensitivity to light while wearing any type of contact lenses, the organization advises checking with your eye doctor.


soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Bren

    And did the study say it was because the children weren't handling them properly, caring for them correctly, etc? That was most likely the case. There are simple rules for using lenses and kids have to be mature enough to care for them correctly.

    July 29, 2010 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lynn M

      While it may not be the entire focus of the study in question, it is now popular for pre-teen and teen-agers to buy colored lenses from internet sites and stores. This is a far bigger concern as they do not require physician supervision.

      July 29, 2010 at 09:50 | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      Their parents aren't making sure they are caring for them properly. I got contacts at age 11, now I've been wearing them for 21 years. NO PROBLEMS HERE. I took care of them like I was supposed to...

      July 29, 2010 at 11:14 | Report abuse |
    • Amadai

      If contacts have been determined appropriate for a child, the simplest method to eliminate the risks associated with a child caring for a "medical device" is to choose only daily disposable lenses. The lenses are more expensive for the year than longer wearing types, but the savings in solution costa and reduced saftey risk is well worth the price.

      July 29, 2010 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
  2. Robin

    I have worn contacts for 16 years and have never had an infection. I wash my hands before I put the contacts in, change my lense case every month and visit my eye doctor yearly. Very simple things to teach to young people if they take the responsibility of wearing contacts.

    July 29, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jessica

    If you don't take care of them you will get an infection. Not all kids can handle that. Also as a medical device you are required to provide a valid prescription to buy one. Any company that will sell them over the internet and not require a prescription is breaking the law and well as the purchaser. Which is typically the case for these colored and patterned lenses.

    July 29, 2010 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sally

    I am a teenager who has not been wearing contact lenses for that long, but I have been wearing them for a little over two years. And I have not yet had any problems with my contacts- but that is due to my proper care. I wash my hands before and after putting my contacts on and I put them in the cleaning solution every night. WIth proper care, I hope to also not have any problems in the future. Also, I do get my contacts from my Opthamologist- which makes them more safe. So I do hope that more teenagers and everyone else gets prescription contacts and takes proper care of them. 🙂

    July 29, 2010 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Alex

    I have been wearing contacts since I was about 13. During my "teens" I was really irresponsible and would wear them for days on end without taking them out or cleaning them. I luckily didn't have any serious problems, but this is definitely the way to get yourself an eye injury. I don't think I was mature enough to wear contacts for the first few years I had them.

    July 29, 2010 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Derek

    If you take care of contact lenses, that's great. However, you can still be very careful and get problems with contact lenses. Kids are to blame many times but you can still get problems even if you are careful. I used to wear contacts until I saw a real eye doctor, an opthalmologist, one with an M.D. degree not a fake eye doctor (optometrist)

    July 29, 2010 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josey

      I think you are slightly mistaken with your take on the ophthalmologist and optometrist. An optometrist also attends medical school. He is a doctor of optometry just like an ophthalmologist is a medical doctor. The difference is a MD specializes in surgeries, injuries and eye disease management such as cataract, macular degeneration and retinal problems. An OD specializes in the management of the prescription for glasses and contacts. With an ophthalmologist chances are you spent very little time with the doctor and most of the time was spent with his techs. With an optometrist you spent the majority of your time with the doctor and a little time with his techs. They are both doctors but have different specialities.

      July 29, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse |
    • beachy

      You may think Optometrists are "fake" eye doctors, Derek, but my diploma, credentials, and insurance billing all say differently. But if you want to go to an Ophthalmologist, that's fine. They'll charge you more and spend less time with you.

      July 29, 2010 at 12:50 | Report abuse |
    • Jangocat

      Sorry you don't know what your talking about. An optometrist IS without a doubt an eye doctor. An Ophthalmologist is an eye SURGEON. I have used both for 40 years. They work together and the Ophthalmologist has no need to do simple things like fitting glasses and contacts. He would much prefer you go the the Optometrist for that. I wore contacts for over 30 years, from age twelve until I had cataract surgery which corrects your focus too, so lenses were no longer needed. I assure you MOST eye problems you have with lenses are the users fault. The only time in over 30 years of wearing them that I had a problem that wasn't my fault was on the occasion a piece of dirt got under the lens and scratched my cornea. That and infections really aren't even a big deal if you seek treatment. You leave the lenses out for a week and they give you drops to clear it up. It's only dangerous if you ignore the problem.

      July 29, 2010 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
    • Stu

      Yes, an optometrist is a real doctor, but I can feel Derek's pain here. I used to go to an optometrist and my vision got progressively much worse over the course of 10 years to the point of legal blindness. I finally went to an opthalmologist, the first doctor who actually dilated my eyes and took my prescription properly. I got Lasik done and have had no problems since. An optometrist is still a doctor, but the standards for an opthalmologist is likely to be much higher. I can't speak for all optometrists, but mine was a "doctor-lite" at best...

      July 29, 2010 at 17:26 | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      STU, Legally blind is a term used to describe vison that cannot be corrected with glasses or lasik.....If lasik corrected your vision then glasses would have corrected your vision and you were not legally blind.....Also, vision tends to get worse with age and near point stress etc,,,,,That is why lasik exists--the need for vision correction.....Your post implies a missed eye disease that may have caused blindness.....

      September 11, 2010 at 07:34 | Report abuse |
  7. IowaMan

    Could the reason that contact lenses and glasses account for the most medical device related emergency visits be because they are, by far, the most common medical devices? What percentage of the population wears contacts or glasses?

    July 29, 2010 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • beachy

      IowaMan–estimates are that about 2% of the worlds population wears contacts lenses, and as many as 20% wear glasses. In the US, those numbers are higher, most likely because more people can afford vision care and correction.

      July 29, 2010 at 12:56 | Report abuse |
  8. bghamby

    An optometrist has rigorous advanced training at a school of optometry, but they do not go to the same medical school as doctors. They do earn the title of doctor, but vets, dentists, and optometrists are all separate from the medical school that doctors go to. It's specialized training for a specific purpose.

    July 29, 2010 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Bubba

    I tried them and couldn't take it. Blinking and watery eyes were too much, so I went back to glasses. Cheaper and don't hurt.

    July 29, 2010 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Judy

    I have worn contacts for 47 years, I was 13 when I got them. I have had only 3 infections in all that time. What's the matter with kids and parents today????!!!!

    July 29, 2010 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Aubrie

    I have worn contacts for 35 years. Even wore them back when the only lenses available were the hard kind. Horribly uncomfortable. I fell asleep with them a couple times back then and scratched up my eyes, but no infections. I was very careful with sanitation. My young friends however used to take theirs out and suck on them to clean them off and then put them back in without rinsing off the saliva. Grossed me out, but many did it. They ALL got regular infections. Disgusting.

    July 29, 2010 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sarcasmo

    Sweet merciful crap, this country is screwed if our future generations can't even overcome contact lens hurdles.

    July 29, 2010 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. G.S.

    I wouldn't trust anything the American Academy of Opthomology says. There has to be some greedy reason behind it. Truth is more eye damage is caused by people who can't afford the appointment to renew their prescription and wear their lenses too long because they can't buy replacement ones in the meantime. Yet, for an overwhelming number, their eyesight hasn't changed to justify the appointment in the first place.

    July 31, 2010 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Dave

    I forgot to mention that I think glasses could be a danger too if not properly taken care of. Kids could fall on them and puncture an eye.

    August 7, 2010 at 00:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Dave

    Contact lenses in general aren't dangerous. It's the doctors and parents responsibility to properly teach their kids to how to care for their eyes and their contact lenses. If kids are not responsible enough to care for their lenses make them wear glasses.

    I read a good article about this over at http://www.contactlenser.com that defended doctors giving children contact lenses.

    August 7, 2010 at 00:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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    August 12, 2010 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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