Contact lenses send more children to the emergency room per year than any other medical device, according to a study in the August issue of Pediatrics.

The researchers suggested that out of 144,799 total pediatric visits to emergency rooms in the United States from January 1, 2004 to December 21, 2005, approximately 33,300 (23%) were caused by some form of contact lens wear.

The lay press made a big deal out of this statistic. Indeed, multiple print and electronic news sources erroneously cited the “33,000+ contact lens-related emergency room visits” as a yearly, rather than two-year, statistic.

In the Pediatrics article, the most frequently reported injury diagnoses related to contact lens wear included corneal contusion/abrasion, conjunctivitis and hemorrhage. Additionally, the researchers identified the most common risk factors for contact lens-related complications in children as alteration of the prescribed wearing/replacement schedules and non-compliance with recommended lens care regimens.

“Contact lenses can be a great alternative to eyeglasses for some, but we must remember that children need extra supervision and guidance when it comes to using them properly,” says Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America. “Some children may not take the time to clean their lenses, or worse, share them with others. We must educate them on the importance of taking care of their eyes today to avoid painful vision problems in the future.”

Wang C, Hefflin B, Cope JU, et al. Emergency department visits for medical device-associated adverse events among children. Pediatrics. 2010 Aug;126(2):247-59.