Here at CLEcontactlenses, we get a lot of questions regarding eye care and eye health. We decided to take one of the questions we get asked VERY frequently around the summer season:
"Is is safe to swim in my contact lenses"
So we created this blog post to clear up some questions, comments, and concerns relating to it.
The Health Risks of Swimming with Contact Lenses in
First off and most importantly, it is highly recommended that you don't go swimming with contact lenses in. The FDA clearly states on their website to keep contact lenses away from any tap, bottled, distilled,lake, or ocean water. (that article can be found here)
Here are some reasons why:
- Parasites - In many bodies of water there are nasty parasites, bacteria, and microbes that can do some serious damage to your eyes. The problem with contact lenses is that they create a perfect enviorment for these parasites to attach onto.
- Acanthamoeba Keratitis - The Acanthamoeba is a protozoan parasite that generally lives in freshwater. It attaches onto the contact lenses when it meets and stays there, but is too small to see with the human eye. It then irritates the eye causing inflammation. It can even cause permanent vision damage/loss if not treated quickly enough. The bacteria attacks the cornea of the eye, a condition called "Acanthamoeba Keratitis"
- General Irritation - The chlorine in pools and other various chemicals, found in bodies of water all over the world can come in contact with your eye and cause irritation. Your contact lenses can even aid in keeping this harmful water touching your eye if the water gets in between the cornea and lens.
- Soft Lenses - If you are wearing soft lenses, they will tend to constrict and squeeze slightly on your cornea. This will create inflammation and increase irritation. They also have a pourous design that allows for bacteria/chemicals to more easily attach to it. - you would be safer without any contacts in at all.
- Hard contact lenses - Hard contact lenses such as Rigid Gas Permeables have a high chance to fall off while moving through the water as they don't hug your eye quite as smoothly. This will lead to you losing them, and having to get new ones (more $$)
Even though it is not a very good idea to swim with your contact lenses in, there are some smarter alternatives:
- Use disposable lenses - Many companies such as Acuvue make disposable contact lenses that would be perfect for going in the water. Right after you're done with the lenses, just toss them and put a new pair in. Boxes of acuvue dailes run at about 25$ per 30 contacts. So 30/2(for each eye) = 15. Then 25/15 = 1.6667. So each time you go swimming it's going to cost you a dollar and 67 cents. Not great, but certainly not awful.
- Try prescription goggles - Prescription goggles are definitely the most ideal solution to swimming with contacts in. This completely eliminates the need for contacts; so even if water does get into the goggles, the contacts wont absorb the harmful bacteria. The prescription is actually in the lenses of the goggles, which is perfect for heavy pool/ocean goers. While these can be a little bit pricey at first, they will definitely hold there weight in both health and monetary value over the long haul.
If you guys have any additional questions about the health risks of swimming with contacts in please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you.