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Swimming With Contacts: Is it Safe?

woman in swimming pool with contacts

If you don't have 20/20 vision, contacts can make your life a lot easier. But, when it comes to swimming, things can get a bit more complicated. In fact, swimming with contacts can be dangerous.

Water is full of harmful bacteria. If that bacteria gets into your eyes, you can end up with a serious health problem. Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go swimming.

This article will focus on whether or not you can wear contacts in the water and why.

Can I Wear Contacts When I Swim?

As mentioned, water contains viruses and microbes that can cause serious damage. For example, the Acanthamoeba organism can fasten itself to your contact lens. This can create an infection in your cornea and promote inflammation.

People who suffer from Acanthamoeba keratitis can end up with permanent vision loss. Some even have to get a corneal transplant.

The type of contact lens you use can also make swimming difficult. Gas permeable contacts can fall off while you're swimming. Imagine having to replace your contacts each time you go swimming. That would become quite the expensive habit. It’s a good idea to keep your prescription glasses close by.

Soft contact lenses tighten in freshwater. This can make your eyes feel uncomfortable. These lenses will absorb bacteria, chemicals, and viruses from the water. Repeat ‘Infection here I come’ ten times over. This should help you remember to keep your contacts out of the water.

What About Swimming Pools?

While pools are cleaner than ocean water, they still contain a lot of bacteria that can damage your eyes. After all, think about all the things that end up into the pool. Dirt, leaves, bugs, band-aids, all carry bacteria into the water. There are many pathogens inside of swimming pools that chlorine can't get rid of. Even freshwater pools can contain harmful particles that may lead to eye infections.

Can I Swim with Contacts if I Wear Goggles?

man wearing swimming goggles on his head leaning on side of pool

If you want to swim while wearing contacts, always wear a pair of goggles. These can protect your eyes from bacteria, viruses, and microbes in the water. Goggles also prevent your contacts from falling out of place. But, make sure the goggles are high quality and waterproof. Goggles that slip off or fill with water won't do you much good.

If you’re afraid to swim with contacts in, get prescription swimming goggles. Like glasses, these goggles have your exact prescription. Prescription goggles allow you to swim while removing most of the risk involved.

Some of these goggles even come with UV protection to keep damaging sun rays out of your eyes. And, you’ll have a clear view while underwater.

Wear Disposable Contacts

disposable contact lens blister packs

Even if you're wearing goggles, you should avoid swimming in your normal contacts. Instead, get a pair of disposable contacts. You can take these contacts out and throw them away right after you're done swimming. You won’t have to worry about disinfecting them. And, you’ll reduce your chances of getting an eye infection from the water.

If your contact comes out while you're swimming, you won't have to worry about replacing them. Manufacturers design disposable contacts to take out the cleaning and maintenance process.

Buying a few pairs of disposable contacts is also cheaper than replacing your main contacts. Still, once you leave the pool take your contacts out. Next, use rewetting drops to cleanse your eyes. Make sure you use a solution that is compatible with your contact lenses.

What if I Get Water in My Eyes When I’m Swimming

If any water gets into your eyes when you're wearing contacts, take them out as soon as possible. The sooner you do this, the lower the risk of infection will be.

Call your doctor if you notice any irritation or sensitivity to light. These could be early signs that an infection is developing. Your doctor can examine your eyes, set a diagnosis, and prescribe the right treatment.

Can I at Least Shower With Contacts?

closeup of woman smiling in the shower

Not even tap water is safe! So, take your contacts out when you're showering. While a shower might pose less of a threat than other kinds of waters, shower water can still splash into your eyes. This means bacteria can absorb through your lenses and into your cornea. It’s just not worth the risk!

If you have trouble showering without contacts, you can wear disposable contacts. But try to keep your eyes closed as much as possible and remove them as soon as you're done.

It's always better to shower without any kind of contacts at all. Besides, buying enough disposable contacts to use with every shower can become expensive.

Quick Tips About Water and Contacts

graphic illustration of people swimming

Conclusion: Swimming with contacts is not advisable. In fact, never expose your contact lenses to any kind of water. Swimming in lakes, oceans, pools, or even sitting in a hot-tub can introduce bacterial contamination and lead to infection.

Still, water isn't the only problem when it comes to eye health. There are a lot of other common things that people do that can actually damage your eyes. While you’re keeping your contacts out of the water, make sure you aren't doing other things that could be harmful to your vision or your eye health.

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