Going for a Dip – Is It Safe to Wear Contacts in the Sea or Pool?
One advantage of wearing contact lenses is that people don't always know that we are wearing them. They are more discreet than glasses and sometimes we can even forget we're wearing them. Whilst they are fine to wear for most activities, swimming is one activity you should do without your lenses.
Why You Can't Go Swimming In Your Lenses
You can only wear your lenses to go swimming if you also wear air-tight goggles. This is because even if you stay on top of the water, there is a risk of water being splashed into your eyes.
Chlorine and Contact Lenses
Without lenses, chlorinated water stings the eyes. If you are wearing lenses, the lens can absorb the chlorinated water. This is seriously not good for your lens or your eyes. The chlorinated water could be carrying all sorts of micro-organisms that can cause eye infections and the chlorine will dry out your lens, making your lens draw water from your eye, leading to dry eyes. Also, water splashing into your eyes can dislodge the lens, making it float around your eye.
Sea Water and Contact Lenses
But it's not just in pools that you should avoid wearing your lenses. Swimming in the sea can also cause problems for contact lens wearers. Salt water will dry out your lens, again causing your lens to absorb water from the eye. Plus salt water also contains lots of micro-organisms that you don't want on your lenses or in your eyes and again, the water could cause your lens to float about in your eye.
If you really do feel the need to wear contact lenses whilst swimming, wear some goggles. A recent study reported in the Journal Optometry and Vision Science; found that if contact lens wearers wore goggles when swimming in the sea or in chlorinated pools, they had far lower levels of micro-organisms and bacteria on their lenses than people who just wore their lenses. But if you can't wear goggles, at least use disposable lenses that you can remove as soon as you leave the water.
Other Things to Avoid Doing Whilst Wearing Contacts
Just as with swimming, try to avoid using hot tubs or showering with your lenses in. All sorts of micro-organisms live in water and these are not good for your lenses or your eyes. People, who regularly swim, shower or use hot tubs with their lenses in, run a higher risk than other contact lens wearers of developing Acanthamoeba keratitis. This is a rare but very serious infection of the cornea.
Even if you don't develop this, you still run the minor but irritating risk of your lens becoming dislodged.
Saunas are another potential danger spot for contact lens wearers, this time because the heat can cause your eyes to dry out. You can wear your lenses in a sauna, but you must blink more often than you normally would to keep the eye and the lens moist. When you leave the sauna, you will usually need to rest your lenses in their cleaning solution for ten minutes to refresh them.
The best bet for all three of these activities, going swimming, using a hot tub or using a sauna, is to not wear your lenses. But if you feel you must, then purchase disposable lenses to wear during these activities.