Swimming with Contact Lenses: Are You Putting Your Eyes at Risk?

If you're a swimmer, you understand the importance of maintaining clear vision in the water. Wearing glasses can be cumbersome, as they tend to get splashed and obstruct your sight. Contact lenses offer a potential solution, but are they suitable for swimming? Join us as we explore the risks of swimming with contact lenses and discover ways to protect your eyes while enjoying the pool. Continue reading to learn more about the dangers of swimming with your contact lenses from Nationwide Vision. 

The Risks of Wearing Contacts in Water

Numerous harmful germs are circulating in many types of water, such as tap water, ocean water, and lake water. One of the particularly dangerous germs that form in water is a microscopic parasite known as Acanthamoeba. If water containing this germ comes in contact with soft contact lenses, it can change the lenses’ shape or even cause it to stick to your eye. Soft lenses are incredibly porous and absorb more water than other lenses, making them more susceptible to harmful bacteria. If the cornea, which is the clear dome covering the colored area of your eye, becomes scratched. This makes it easier for germs to enter your eye and cause a severe infection. 

Caused by the Acanthamoeba parasite, a common eye infection affecting swimmers is known as Acanthamoeba keratitis. This condition can be painful and challenging to treat, sometimes persisting for a year or more. In rare cases, it can lead to blindness. Wearing contact lenses in water can increase your risk of developing a variety of eye issues, such as:

  • Eye irritation

  • Dry eye syndrome, especially from contact with chlorine or saltwater

  • Eye infections

  • Painful scratches or corneal abrasions

  • Eye inflammation

  • Corneal ulcers

Everyday Precautions for Wearing Contacts Around Water

If you wear contacts, you should avoid wearing them in any water. This decreases your risk of developing an eye infection, as the water may be teeming with dangerous pathogens. According to the FDA, you should avoid wearing your contacts in: 

  • Showers

  • Sprinklers

  • Baths

  • Hot tubs

  • Swimming pools

It's best to remove contact lenses before any of these activities. If water does enter your eye while wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses as soon as possible. After removing your lenses, make sure to clean and disinfect them with solution overnight. You can discard your lenses and start with a fresh pair the next time you wear your contacts. Make sure always to carry a contact case with the solution. This allows you to take your contacts out as needed safely. We also recommend keeping a pair of eyeglasses with your current prescription handy.

The Dangers of Wearing Contacts In A Swimming Pool

Although the chemicals in a pool eliminate harmful germs, they aren’t effective on all germs found in swimming pools. Though chlorine can kill many germs in a swimming pool, it can’t kill every germ. Swimming pools can harbor many dangerous germs due to the constantly changing environment, creating a risk of eye infection for all who enter. The risk of infection increases if you wear contacts in a pool. Contact lenses can irritate and expose the surface of your eye, making it a more friendly environment for an infection to develop. Even if you don't wear contact lenses, chlorine can irritate your eyes, making them red, irritated, and light-sensitive. Flushing your eyes with a saline solution after swimming can help ease your discomfort.

Tips for Swimming with Contacts

There are some situations where you need to be able to see while swimming. If you must wear your contact lenses in the water, follow these suggestions:

  • Use artificial tears or re-wetting drops before and after swimming to reduce the risk of developing dry eye

  • Wear a pair of secure, tight-fitting swim goggles, or purchase prescription goggles

  • Remove your contacts immediately after swimming, then clean and disinfect them with a contact lens solution.

  • You also have the option of wearing daily disposable contact lenses, which you would discard after swimming

Eye Doctor near me smiling holding contact lense case sitting in desk, Contact Lens Eye Exam: What To Expect

Symptoms of an Eye Infection

Not sure if you contracted some unwanted germs from swimming or other water sources? Here's what symptoms to look for:

  • Redness or pain

  • A yellow or mucus-like discharge

  • Light sensitivity

  • Swelling

  • Vision disturbances

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor to schedule an appointment. If left untreated, an eye infection can lead to permanent vision loss.

Schedule an Eye Exam Today

If you think you may have an eye infection, schedule an exam with Nationwide Vision today. We offer comprehensive eye exams, preventive eye care, eyeglasses, and contact lenses.

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