Can I Wear Contacts When I Go Swimming? By Gordon Wong, OD on May 01, 2024

life preserver in the waterContact lenses provide clearer vision without the need for eyeglasses which can make it tempting to wear them while swimming. Although it may seem like no big deal to wear your contact lenses into a pool, it can actually put your eye health at risk. 

At GW Eye Associates, Dr. Gordon Wong and Dr. Wildon Wong explain the importance of properly using contact lenses to patients in La JollaCA, Carmel Valley, CA, and San Diego, CA, and would like to take a moment to discuss why you shouldn’t wear contacts while swimming. 

Why Shouldn’t You Wear Contacts While Swimming?

Whether swimming in a lake, the ocean, or a chlorinated pool, wearing contacts in the water is never a good idea. Taking out contacts before swimming, or even showering, is important to protecting eye health and eyesight.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at some reasons why you shouldn’t wear your contact lenses while swimming.  

Eye Infections

Bacteria and microorganisms can be found in many different bodies of water, including swimming pools, lakes, and oceans. Wearing contact lenses while swimming can trap bacteria-carrying water between contact lenses and the eyes. This can lead to bacteria attaching to the eye and causing an infection. 

One type of microorganism found in water is an amoeba called Acanthamoeba. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when Acanthamoeba infects the eyes, referred to as Acanthamoeba keratitis, it can lead to permanent vision impairment or blindness.  

Eye Irritation 

Swimming with contact lenses can cause soft contact lenses to stick to the surface of the eyes, leading to irritation.  

Other reasons eye irritation can occur is from chlorine or saltwater staying under contact lenses. The constant contact can cause the eyes to become irritated, red, and uncomfortable. 

Corneal Abrasions

Wearing contacts while swimming can cause corneal abrasions, or a scratch or tear in the outermost layer of the eye. 

Corneal abrasions can happen as a result of contact lenses sticking to the eyes or from tiny debris in the water catching between the contact lens and the eye.

Contacts Might Fall Out and Get Lost

Another reason to remove contacts before swimming is that they may become dislodged in the water and become lost. Once a contact falls out in a swimming pool or the ocean, it’s pretty much gone forever. 

Tips to Protect Your Eyes While Swimming

The best way for contact lens wearers to protect their eyes while swimming is to take out their contacts before entering any body of water. However, if you accidentally wear your contacts while swimming, it’s important to remove the contacts immediately with clean, dry hands and throw the lenses away. 

Applying lubricating eye drops may be helpful in flushing out irritants after removing contacts. It’s also important to watch the eyes for signs of infection, redness, discomfort, or irritation for several days after water exposure and to see an eye doctor at the first sign of irritation.

If you can’t see well enough without your contact lenses to swim, it is sometimes recommended to wear tight fitting goggles while swimming, but a better option is wearing prescription swim goggles. 

Schedule a Consultation

For answers to your questions about contact lenses or other eye care needs, we welcome you to schedule a consultation at GW Eye Associates. 

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GW Eye Associates

Our team at GW Eye Associates in La Jolla and Del Mar can provide a wide range of high-quality eye care services. Dr. Gordon G. Wong and Dr. Wildon C. Wong have over 45 years of combined experience and belong to several prestigious organizations, including:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • American Optometric Association

For more information about our services, contact our office online or call us at (858) 454-4699 today.

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