Is it Safe to Wear Contacts in the Pool or at the Beach?
In one word – no. It is not safe to wear contacts in the pool or when dunking in the ocean waves. Water in swimming pools, oceans, hot tubs and all bodies of water, is a natural breeding ground for many bacteria and microorganisms. However, our bodies have an innate defense system to protect us against harm from these microbes. Once you insert contact lenses, you are interfering with your eye’s natural protection. As our eye doctor can explain during your next eye exam, swimming with contacts increases the risk of eye infection and dangerous ocular conditions, such as a corneal ulcer.
Hazards of Water
Think of your contact lenses as miniature sponges that are highly absorbent. When you go swimming, your contacts will soak up the water and trap it against the surface of your eye. Microbes are thereby trapped on your eye and able to attack easily. Your safety system of blinking to flush away harmful substances with your tears isn’t effective, and the pesky microscopic bugs can multiply easily.
The acanthamoeba is a particularly menacing organism that lives in water and can attach itself it to your contacts. Even if you disinfect your lenses immediately after swimming, it won’t always help, because acanthamoeba is resistant to most disinfectants! This microbe can cause severe infection and swelling of the cornea, which can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated quickly enough.
In addition to the increased risk of infection, chemicals in pool water (such as chlorine) can cause eye irritation and inflammation, which weakens your ocular defenses. Water will also wash away your lubricating tear film and make your contacts swell, so they no longer rest comfortably on your eyes.
There is another danger to be aware of when swimming with contact lenses. Namely, they can get lost very easily if the water rinses them out of your eyes! This occurs more frequently with rigid gas permeable (GP) contacts.
Swimming with Goggles
If you absolutely must wear your contact lenses while swimming, waterproof goggles will reduce your risk of infection and irritation. However, if you opt to wear goggles, then the safest type to wear is prescription-swimming goggles! You’ll benefit from optimal eye safety and crisp underwater vision.
Specialty prescription goggles can be customized with your vision prescription, just like your eyeglasses and contact lenses. You will be able to enjoy crystal-clear views underwater, without any of the risks of swimming with contact lenses. Quality swim goggles with UV-protection are available in our eye care clinics, and our opticians will be pleased to fit you with the best lenses for your visual needs.
When You Do Wear Contacts in the Water
Despite the risks, we know that many people still choose to wear their contact lenses for swimming in the pool or at the beach. Although our eye doctors strongly discourage this practice, we are aware of the reality! Therefore, here are some tips for how to minimize the danger to your eyes:
- Do not open your eyes underwater
- If water gets in your eyes, remove your lenses as soon as possible and disinfect them thoroughly
- Daily disposables are your best bet for swimming, since they are discarded after single use. Remove and throw them out immediately after your trip to the pool or beach, rinse out your eyes with artificial tears, and replace your lenses with a fresh pair.
- Never swim in contacts and then doze off in them
Plan Your Swim Trips with Our Optometrist
Visit our optometrists in Burlington, Wilmington, Fayetteville, Durham, Raleigh or Cary, North Carolina
Before you dive into the water, schedule an appointment with our eye doctors in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Burlington and Wilmington, NC. We’ll help you figure out the safest, most suitable way to have clear vision. If you do suffer eye irritation, unusual discharge, sensitivity, pain or redness after wearing contact lenses while swimming, contact us immediately for an eye exam!