Is it safe to wear contact lenses while swimming in a pool, lake or ocean?
The simple answer is: No. Wearing contact lenses while submerged in water is not recommended. Bacteria and microbes thrive in water, which can be found in swimming pools, oceans, lakes, and even hot tubs. While our bodies have an inbuilt defense system to protect us from certain microorganisms, a waterborne eye infection is still possible.
Risks of swimming while wearing contacts
Contact lenses shouldn’t be exposed to any type of water, except their prescribed cleaning and storage solutions. In fact, swimming while wearing contacts can be particularly dangerous due to the prolonged exposure to water-born pathogens. Contact lenses can absorb water, trapping dangerous pathogens against your eye. Swimming with contacts in lakes, rivers, and oceans is riskier than swimming in a pool. This is because bacteria, viruses, and other harmful organisms are more likely to be found in natural bodies of water. Pool chemicals offer some protection against such organisms. However, this doesn’t mean it’s safe to wear contact lenses when swimming in a pool. Chlorine and other pool chemicals do not destroy all pathogens and pool chemicals themselves, such as chlorine, can still cause chemical burns on your eyes.
Swimming while wearing contact lenses may increase your risk of:
- Eye infections
- Corneal ulcers
- Eye inflammation (uveitis)
- Corneal abrasion or scratch
- Eye irritation due to lenses sticking to your eyes
- Dry eye syndrome, especially when swimming in a chlorinated pool or saltwater