Good Healthcare Requires Treatment of Your Mind, Body, and Soul

Good Healthcare Requires Treatment of Your Mind, Body, and Soul

Wearing Contact Lenses While Swimming: Is It Dangerous?

by Hugh Larson

Contact lenses offer numerous benefits to those with poor eyesight. Compared to regular eyeglasses, contact lenses enable more ease of wear during leisure activities and sports, while providing a wider field of view. However, swimming with your contact lenses in can be extremely risky. According to the American Optometric Association, swimming with contact lenses increases your risk of acquiring Acanthamoeba keratitis, a life-threatening bacterial infection that inflames the cornea and threatens your vision. Learn more about wearing contact lenses while swimming and the associated risks.

Risk of Swimming with Contacts

Whether in a lake, river or ocean, in a hot tub or bathtub, or in a swimming pool, water can be home to countless dangerous viruses and microbes. For contact wearers, one of the most serious risks of swimming with lenses in is the Acanthamoeba organism. This organism can attach to the contact lens and cause the cornea to become inflamed and infected. If not treated quickly, Acanthamoeba keratitis can result in permanent vision loss or the need for a corneal transplant.

Acanthamoeba are a type of amoeba that are regularly found in water sources, including tap water, well water, and sewage and soil systems. Although the risk of infection to these organisms is fairly low, the seriousness of the condition, if contracted, is severe enough that you should avoid it at all costs. Even contact lens wearers who practice proper lens care can develop the infection while swimming, showering, or hot tub use. Signs and symptoms of an Acanthamoeba infection may include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye redness
  • Sensation of something in the eye
  • Excessive tearing

Reducing Your Risk of Infection

Although it's not recommended to swim while wearing contact lenses, some avid swimmers may still choose to wear them. If you opt to wear your contacts while swimming, be sure to take the proper precautions to avoid a bacterial eye infection. Wearing goggles while swimming can be extremely helpful in preventing dangerous organisms from making contact with your lenses. Try on several pairs of goggles until you find a pair that provides a tight fit around your eyes to keep all water out.

If you don't want to wear goggles, choose swimming techniques that do not involve splashing water into your eyes. Relaxed swim strokes that involve keeping your head above the water can drastically reduce your risk of acquiring bacterial eye infections. If you decide to swim while wearing contacts, promptly remove them as soon as you get out of the pool, even if you don't think any water has splashed into your eyes. Clean the contacts with a cleaning solution or replace them with a new pair.

Other Causes for Concern

Bacterial infections are not the only thing you have to worry about if you're swimming with your contact lenses in. Most swimming pools contain strong chemicals, such as chlorine and cyanuric acid, which can harm or irritate your eyes, and can potentially lead to an infection. Water can also shrink the size of your contact lenses. When the lens shrinks, the contacts become too tight over the eyeball causing a number of eye health issues. Tips to help you avoid harming your eyes while swimming include:

  • Avoid splashing water into your eyes
  • Wear goggles while swimming
  • Bring a replacement set of contact lenses when you swim
  • Avoid swimming in slow flowing lakes, rivers or contaminated pools
  • Keep your eyes lubricated with eye drops
  • Close your eyes while you're swimming

Wearing contact lenses while you swim comes with a variety of risks, including eye irritation and infection. For more information about swimming with contact lenses or if you suspect that you may have an eye infection, contact your eye doctor immediately.


About Me

Good Healthcare Requires Treatment of Your Mind, Body, and Soul

I have worked in a supportive role in the medical industry for over 20 years, and I have been amazed at the advances in medicine that have been made. While it is always great to hear about a new medication that helps cure a disease or a new surgical procedure that can help someone live a normal life again after an injury, I have been especially amazed at the research that has shown just how much our physical and mental health are connected. Since I keep on top of all of the amazing medical studies being performed and I know others are too busy to hunt them down themselves, I decided to start a blog to share my favorite health tips for keeping both your mind and body healthy.