Problems with Contact Lenses

Why swimming in a chlorinated pool can cause severe problems with contact lenses including sensitivity to light and even blindness through contracting a severe eye infection.

Did you know that you can contract a potentially serious eye infection from swimming in your contact lenses?

I recently read a frightening BBC article about a woman who lost her eyesight after doing a couple of lengths in a hotel spa swimming pool. Tiny invisible amoeba in the water became trapped under her contacts and caused a reaction making her hyper-sensitive to any kind of light.

She was confined to a dark room for months and subsequently lost the sight in one of her eyes.

Acanthamoeba Keratitis

While acanthamoeba keratitis, the disease developed by the lady in the above article, is a rare eye infection, it can occur in contact lens wearers who swim underwater.

You are more at risk if you swim in ponds or lakes where there is likely to be stagnant and therefore unclean water, but this case highlights that even in chlorinated pools, where chlorine zaps most of the bugs and beasties, amoeba can still thrive.

Keen swimmers who wear contact lenses may well shut their eyes when putting their head underneath the surface, but there is always a risk of water splashes getting in the eye, carrying unseen bacteria with it.

Swimming in Contact Lenses

While I regularly swim in both the sea and our pool here in Cyprus, I always swim breast stroke and never put my head under water as I'm always wearing my contacts.

prescription swimming goggles Prescription swimming goggles

If you do want to dive or swim underwater, swimming in contact lenses is still pretty safe as long as you don't open your eyes under the water.

If you get the odd splash of water in your eye, however, for instance when playing games in the pool, my advice is to wear prescription swimming goggles when swimming in ANY type of water - you want to minimise any chance of getting bacteria in your eye.

Tip: Eye problems with contact lenses can be lessened if you use a daily disposable lens when swimming. As the lens is discarded afterwards, there is no risk of any bacteria being trapped underneath, unlike a non-daily disposable lens that is cleaned and stored for future use.

See my page on swimming in contact lenses for tips on comfortable daily disposable lenses to wear while swimming.

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