Can You Swim With Contact Lenses?
When you make the decision to rely on contact lenses to help with vision problems, you have to be prepared to make a few subtle changes to your lifestyle. From remembering to put your lenses in and then taking them out again to set aside time for cleaning – your daily routine will become just a tad different. And then there’s swimming. One of the most common questions asked by new contact wearers is “can you swim with contact lenses”?
While eye doctors wish they could give you a more positive answer, the truth of the matter is that swimming with contacts is not recommended, at all. Swimming with lenses should be avoided if possible. Swimming pools, dams, lakes, and even bathwater could pose as a threat and necessary precautions should be put in place.
Reasons Why You Should Avoid Wearing Contact Lenses While Swimming
Your doctor or ophthalmologist is not out to get you when he says that swimming with contacts in should be avoided, in fact, he will have some very valid reasons that will only be to your benefit. For example:
- It puts you at risk of eye infections. Contact lenses need to be kept in a hygienic environment. Pool water is often riddled with viruses and microorganisms and these can pose as a huge threat to your eyes. These nasty little critters have a tendency of attaching themselves to the surface of your lenses causing your corneas to become inflamed and often infected. Eye infections are a serious cause for concern as they could further impair your vision or you could lose your sight altogether.
- Water can damage your contacts. A contact lens has been designed to absorb moisture and if it is exposed to more water than it can handle, then its shape could be dramatically affected. This will make them uncomfortable to wear and will also distort your vision. In this scenario, you will be obliged to replace your lenses which is not only a hassle but could also be a costly experience. It's not too much an issue if you're wearing daily contact lenses. Particularly Acuvue moists or the Clariti 1 days.
- It can be washed out of your eye. If you think trying to find a needle in a haystack is impossible, try finding a contact lens lost in pool water. As you swim the water will wash over your eye and it is highly likely that a contact lens can be swooped along in the current – never to be seen again.
What Can You Do If You HAVE To Swim With Contact Lenses In?
If a scenario arises where you simply cannot avoid swimming and you have to wear your contacts, then our first piece of advice is to try and keep your dip as short as possible and if you can, keep your head above water. We also recommend that you remove them from your eyes as soon as you can and clean them according to the cleaning instructions that come with your set. Another option is to always have a few pairs of disposable contact lenses on hand. This way, if you do swim, you can avoid damaging your prescribed lenses and you can throw away the disposables once removed.
Wearing a good pair of waterproof swimming goggles will also help to keep water out of your eyes.
Are There Alternative Vision Aids For Swimming?
If you are a regular swimmer or take your eye-care seriously, then it will be worth your while to invest in a pair of prescribed goggles. Prescription goggles are custom made and work the same way as prescription glasses do. They are designed to correct certain refractive errors like short-sightedness, long-sightedness and age-related farsightedness, which would usually be corrected by multifocal contact lenses. Your optometrist will often also custom design your pair so that they fit snuggly around your unique face structure, completely sealing off the water and preventing it from coming into contact with your eyes.
A more affordable option than getting prescription swimming goggles made specifically for you is to opt for ready-made models. Some brands have a range of swimming goggles that are designed to assist with vision problems and have the same prescription figures for both eyes. Before you purchase one of these ready-made brands, however, we suggest that you check the goggles against the prescription you received from your doctor to make sure that they will work accurately without doing more harm to your eyes.
Prescribed swimming goggles will help you to see underwater without risking the chance of contamination and eye infections.
Is There A Long-Term Solution?
For a more permanent solution that will help you to ditch the lenses altogether, you might want to consider laser eye surgery (LASIK). This is a corrective eye surgery procedure that relies on lasers to manipulate and remove tissue so that vision can be improved or restored. This treatment is non-invasive and is growing in popularity for its effective results. Once you have received LASIK surgery, you need to give your eyes time to properly heal. When your eye surgeon has given you the go-ahead, you can spend as much time in the water as you wish.
What Do You Do If Your Eyes Become Infected After Swimming?
Even if you have put all precautions in place, you could still end up with itchy eyes if your face has been submerged in water for a lengthy period of time. Sometimes a splash of pool water is all it takes for bacteria to reach your cornea. If your eyes do become inflamed or infected, then we encourage you to seek medical assistance from your ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Even a short delay could potentially lead to longer recovery time or more serious consequences. In a worst-case scenario, you could even lose your vision completely. If you have been swimming and your eyes are sore and irritated, then it’s definitely time to consult with your doctor for a professional opinion.
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