Is it safe to wear contact lenses while swimming in a pool, lake or ocean?
The answer is simple: No. It’s not safe to wear contacts while immersed in water, even when showering. Water in swimming pools, oceans, lakes and even hot tubs is a natural breeding ground for bacteria and microorganisms. While our bodies have an innate defense system to protect us against harm from these microbes, you can still be at risk of a waterborne eye infection.
What are the risks of swimming while wearing contacts?
Although contact lenses should not be exposed to any sort of water, swimming while wearing contacts can be particularly risky due to the prolonged exposure to water. Water can be absorbed by the lenses, trapping viruses, bacteria and other pathogens against your eye.
Swimming in lakes, rivers, and oceans with contacts is more hazardous than swimming in a pool. This is due to the fact that natural bodies of water are more likely to have bacteria, viruses, and other hazardous organisms that pool chemicals destroy.
However, that doesn’t mean that wearing contact lenses while swimming in a pool is safe. Not all pathogens are killed by chlorine and other pool chemicals. Soft lenses are particularly porous, so pathogens and pool chemicals can still get into your eyes.
In addition to eye infections, wearing your contact lenses while swimming may raise your risk of:
- corneal abrasion or scratch
- corneal ulcers
- dry eye syndrome, especially when swimming in a chlorinated pool or saltwater
- eye inflammation (uveitis)
- eye irritation due to lenses sticking to your eyes
Safety Tips for Swimming with Contact Lenses
Despite the risks, many people still choose to wear contact lenses while swimming in a pool or at the beach. Although eye doctors strongly discourage this practice, they’re aware of the reality.
Important note: The information below is not to be considered as medical advice. Always discuss swimming with contact lenses with your eye doctor beforehand. Each person will receive personalized advice on their individual risks as well as safety tips.
Here are some tips for how to minimize water-related danger to your eyes:
- Non prescription goggles – Goggles that fit snugly will help keep water out of your eyes and lenses.
- Prescription goggles – If you swim frequently, consider investing in a pair of prescription goggles that will eliminate the need to wear contact lenses.
- Disinfect your lenses – After swimming with your contacts, disinfect your lenses in contact lens solution for 24 hours.
- Consider dailies – Wearing daily contact lenses allows you to throw them away after swimming.
- Rigid gas permeable lenses – If you’re a competitive swimmer, your doctor may suggest a special type of rigid gas permeable contact lenses that you wear overnight to reshape your cornea. This can eventually allow you to go contact-free during the day.
- Laser Surgery – So that you don’t need to worry about contact lenses at all, you might want to consider laser eye surgery to help correct your vision.
Before you dive into the water, schedule an appointment with Village Eye Centre in North Edmonton. We’ll help you figure out the safest, most suitable way to enjoy clear vision while in the water.