Background: Microbial keratitis occurs infrequently in childhood. The leading ocular predisposing factors are trauma and preexisting corneal disease. Many of the age-related risk factors in adults play a minor role in children. Methods: The authors retrospectively studied 51 eyes with ulcerative keratitis in 50 children younger than 16 years of age. This includes all patients treated at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute during an 11 1/2 - year period from January 1, 1980, to June 30, 1991. The criterion for inclusion in the study was a discharge diagnosis of microbial (nonviral) keratitis. Results: The principal risk factors identified in this study were trauma (44%), prior corneal surgery (24%), systemic illness (14%), and contact lens wear (12%). Systemic illness or an immunocompromised state existed in 7 (47%) of the 15 children younger than 3 years of age. There was a large male preponderance (68%). Forty-four (86.3%) of the 51 eyes were culture-positive; six (11.7%) were polymicrobial. Five of seven culture- negative patients had received prior topical antibiotic therapy. Pseudomonas aeruginosa (34%), Staphylococcus aureus (20%), and fungi (18%) were the most common organisms isolated. Seven (14%) eyes required surgery. Conclusion: This study presents important differentiating factors between adult and childhood nonviral microbial keratitis. Identification of principal risk factors in children may aid in early recognition and treatment of microbial keratitis.
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