Swimming with contact lenses on may seem like a great idea because without them, you cannot truly see clearly while you’re out splashing away in the waters. However, by doing so you risk numerous eye issues which could be dangerous and may not be worth it after a fun day at a pool or beach.
Here are insights regarding the risks of swimming with contact lenses on and precautions you can take to protect your eyes better in the water.
What are the Risks Swimming with Contact Lenses on?
The FDA does not advise for contact lenses to be exposed to any kind of water. This is due to the nature of soft contact lenses to absorb water, trapping potential bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens on the eye which makes the wearer susceptible to certain eye issues when worn to swim at the pool or beach.
On another note, swimming in a pool may be less eye threatening than swimming in lakes, rivers and out at sea. The reason may appear obvious as water in lakes, rivers and the sea contain a variety of bacteria, viruses, and other harmful pathogens that often would be mostly eliminated by pool chemicals.
However, that does not mean wearing contact lenses to swim at the pool is safe. In fact, chlorine and other pool chemicals are not able to completely eliminate pathogens. Rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses should never be worn to swim, as they are easier to dislodge from your eye. Soft contact lenses on the other hand are more likely to remain on your eye when swimming, but they are porous and can absorb chemicals and bacteria, increasing the risk of eye irritation and infection.
Wearing your contact lenses while swimming could increase your risk of the following issues:
- eye irritation due to lens adherence on the eye
- dry eyes, especially after swimming in chlorinated or salt water
- eye infections
- corneal abrasion (scratched cornea)
- eye inflammation (uveitis)
- corneal ulcers
What about Showering with Contact Lenses On?
The risk of this is similar to swimming with contact lenses on. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s a type of microorganism called Acanthamoeba which is found in all types of water. It is more commonly found in tap water and well water, which are the ones you shower with.
This amoeba may cause a serious eye infection called Acanthamoeba Keratitis which presents as eye pain and can be very difficult to treat. In rare cases, it may even lead to blindness.
Tips for Swimming Safely
Swimming goggles work well enough to reduce the risk of eye infection if you are going to wear contact lenses anyway. Not only does it protect your eyes from contaminants, swim goggles also helps to prevent your lenses from coming off.
However, it is still highly recommended to take your contact lenses out before coming into contact with water.
In the case where your vision is poor without corrective lenses, you could consider investing in a pair of prescription swimming goggles. These could too come with UV protection which would be an added benefit against sun damage to the eyes.
- Refractive Surgery and Other Alternatives
Many of those, typically with an active lifestyle and sporty, choose to undergo refractive surgery to correct their myopia (shortsightedness), hyperopia (longsightedness), or astigmatism with laser eye surgery. With this, you can say goodbye to glasses and contact lenses.
There are various types of laser refractive surgery such as; TransPRK, LASEK, LASIK and various other technologies. Each to their own reshapes the cornea using a computer-controlled laser beam. Refractive surgery allows light to enter the eye and properly focus on the retina for clear vision. These surgeries have a good safety profile with most people achieving 6/6 vision without glasses or contacts after the laser procedure. Nevertheless, all surgeries come with possible risks and complications, which needs careful consideration before undergoing the procedure.
Another alternative is Ortho-K, or orthokeratology. It is a non-surgical method to temporarily correct your refractive error and reduce the need to rely on glasses or contact lenses. Generally it is a type of hard contact lenses that are specifically designed and fitted to reshape the cornea. Typically worn at night while you are asleep, it allows you see clearly when you remove the lens in the morning when you’re awake. It is a safer non-permanent alternative for those who are concerned about permanent refractive surgery.
Your eye doctor or eye care practitioner would be able to better advise you on alternatives to swimming with eye correction to accommodate your lifestyle.
Residents within Klang Valley in areas such as Cheras, Puchong, Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya, and Kepong can come visit our ophthalmologists to have their eyes examined at Nexus Bangsar South KL branch. If you are keen on being independent from glasses, visit us for a full eye assessment for TransPRK or ICL. Rest assured, our refractive surgery team is professional and they are always ready to help. The doctors who can perform TransPRK treatment are Dr Khaw Hoon Hoon, Dr Tai Lai Yong, Dr Wong Hon Seng and Dr Wilson Wong Jun Jie. Residents in Seremban 2, Senawang, Sendayan and Port Dickson can visit Dr Teh Wee Min at our Seremban branch. Residents in Johor Bahru, Skudai, Kulai, Iskandar Puteri, Senai, Tebrau, Batu Pahat, Kluang, Segamat can visit Dr Ling Kiet Phang or Dr Chan Choon Teng at our Johor Bahru branch. Residents in Perai, Bukit Mertajam, Butterworth, Penang island, Alor Setar, Kulim and Sungai Petani can visit Dato’ Dr Haslina or Dr Loh Chow Chin at our Penang branch.