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Is It Okay To Swim While Wearing Contact Lenses?

We’ve had a pretty amazing summer weather wise. And this week will be no different. With forecasts aiming to break temperature records in the low to mid-thirties, Calgarians are going to be looking for ways to cool down. One popular trick to beat the heat is by taking a dip in a local lake or pool. Although this is a way to help prevent heat stroke, for contact lens wearers doing something as simple as swimming opens them up to other risks. Risks such as contracting a serious infection that can impact eye health. So if you, yourself wear contacts or a have someone close to you who does, you may find this week’s blog article of interest. Read on to learn whether it is okay to swim while wearing contact lenses.

Is It Okay To Swim While Wearing Contact Lenses?

Many people aren’t aware but swimming while wearing contact lenses is a “no-no”. Participating in certain water sports and activities while wearing contact lenses can cause eye irritation and expose a person to harmful bacteria and viruses which can cause eye infections. Some eye infections that can occur as a result of swimming can not only be very painful but can be sight threatening. As a result, we tell our patients to avoid swimming while wearing contact lenses.

To maintain optimal eye health, contact lenses should not come into contact with any kind of water. This includes swimming pools, lakes, oceans, hot tubs, showers, and tap water.

What Could Happen If I Swim While Wearing My Contact Lenses?

Eye Irritation

Many people, not just contact lens wearers might find that their eyes become irritated after swimming. This is often a result of the eyes coming into contact with chemicals that are used to sanitize pools. Chlorine and saltwater help keep pools free from unhealthy bacteria. The disadvantage to this is that these chemicals can cause irritation to both skin and eyes.

Flushing your eyes with a saline eye rinse or using a preservative-free artificial tear can help sooth red irritated eyes.

Eye Infections

Water can be and is often a breeding ground for harmful viruses and bacteria. This is why coming into contact with water is not good for eye health. It can cause serious eye infections. One very serious infection is called Acanthamoeba keratitis. This water-borne infection mainly targets contact lens wearers. It is caused by a microbe found in water and if contracted into the eye can be a real danger! The acanthamoeba attaches itself to the surface of contact lenses. Under the right conditions, it may be able to move from the contact lens into the eye. This results in a corneal infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis. Acanthamoeba keratitis is not only very painful, but can result in permanent vision loss, and in extreme cases can cause a person infected to require a corneal transplant.

Other Options For Vision Correction When Swimming

Even though there are risks taken when wearing contact lenses while swimming, there are some people who just can function without wearing some form of vision correction. Losing an expensive pair of eyeglasses or prescription sunglasses at the bottom of the pool, lake, or ocean is not ideal either. So what should a person do?

Prescription Swim Goggles

Many people are not aware that prescription swim goggle might be an option for them. Prescription swim goggles allow you to see under the water. They also prevent any water from coming into contact with the eyes. The one downside to prescription goggles is that they don’t come in all prescriptions. Therefore, they are not a solution for everyone.

Daily Contact Lenses

Using a daily disposable contact lens is a safer option to wearing contacts while your swim. Daily contacts are lenses are worn once and thrown away at the end of every use. By throwing away the lens every time after wearing it, the potential of getting a serious eye infection is drastically reduced. The other advantage of using a daily contact lens is that there is no need to clean the lenses after wear.

When wearing contact lenses when you swim, it is best to dispose of lenses immediately when done. Replacing your lenses with a fresh pair will help keep eyes feeling good and healthy.

Your licensed eye care professional is the best person to help advise you of your vision options for swimming. Should you suspect you’ve developed an eye infection related to swimming, contact lens wear, or any other activity you enjoy doing, have your eyes examined by your optometrist as soon as possible.

To book an appointment with one of our optometrists in Calgary, contact our office at (403)255-2826 or conveniently book an appointment online, in real time, directly into our appointment agenda.

This article was written by Trina Vanaalst, licensed optician and contact lens practitioner.

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