The week before Memorial Day marks Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, an annual awareness week that aims to prevent drowning, pool chemical injuries, and illness outbreaks. This year, Ophthalmology Associates encourages our patients to pay special attention to their contact lens habits, particularly while they’re swimming.
Is it safe to wear contact lenses in water?
No! If you’re thinking about dipping into a pool, lake, or ocean this summer, you should remove your contact lenses first.
Water – even seemingly clean water – can contain countless microbes and viruses. Most of the time, your eyes naturally fight these invaders by blinking them away. When you’re wearing contact lenses, these foreign organisms can get stuck between your eye and the lens, leading to irritation, infections, or even conditions that can permanently harm your vision.
- Acanthamoeba keratitis: Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare, but serious condition in which an organism known as Acanthamoeba infects the cornea, leading to inflammation and potential corneal scarring. If not caught early, people with this condition may need a corneal transplant to recover their lost vision.
- Corneal ulcer: A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea, typically caused by an infection. Symptoms of corneal ulcers include pus or discharge, blurred vision, redness, severe pain, and a persistent sensation of having something in your eye. Some people may also notice a white spot on their cornea.
In addition, water can dislodge rigid gas permeable contact lenses or cause soft contact lenses to tighten around the eye. Both instances can lead to significant discomfort or worse – scratches on the surface of your eye.
What should I do if I swim in my contacts?
If water gets in your eye while swimming with contact lenses, you should immediately remove, clean, and disinfect the lenses. You should also rinse your eyes with lubricating drops or artificial tears.
Some doctors recommend throwing them away entirely. If you frequently swim while wearing contact lenses, daily disposable lenses may be the safest – and the most economical – option.
The best way to swim while still wearing your contacts is to invest in waterproof swim goggles. A good pair of goggles can protect your eyes from waterborne contaminants, as well as reduce the risk of your contacts dislodging or scratching your eyes. It’s also possible to purchase prescription swimming goggles that are custom-designed to correct your vision.
When should I see my doctor?
If you are a frequent swimmer (whether you go swimming with or without out contacts) and swim without the use of goggles you might experience some unpleasant symptoms:
- Redness – See Corneal Abrasion, Conjunctivitis, Corneal Ulcer, Eye Allergies
- Irritation – See Dry Eyes
- Unusual discharge – See Conjunctivitis
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
If these symptoms develop you should rinse your eyes, use eye drops, wetting solutions or gel tears.
Contact your eye doctor if the symptoms do not clear over the next few hours.
Tips for Safe Swimming:
- Wear Goggles – this keeps chemicals and bacteria from getting in your eyes
- Wash Your Eyes after swimming – This will help clear chemicals from your eyes and eyelashes.
- Use wetting solutions or artificial tears or gels before and after swimming – These help lubricate your eyes and keep your tear balance.
- Hydrate – Keeping yourself hydrated will allow your body to produce the appropriate volume and type of tears needed for healthy eyes.
DID YOU KNOW?…
We have all said this before,
“Oh my gosh, I can really smell the chlorine in the pool today!” …Well, the exact opposite may be true!
Chloramines are a by-product of the pool disinfectant chlorine. Chloramines are formed when chlorine interacts with sweat, dirt, bacteria, urine or feces from other swimmers (or diapers) and things like pool toys, and items brought from home.
As the level of chloramines (the “bad” stuff) goes up, the level of chlorine (the “good” stuff) goes down. If the level of chlorine gets too low and the level of chloramines gets too high, then that “swimming pool smell” along with the other uncomfortable results, can occur.
It is the chloramine, not the chlorine, that causes your eyes to sting after swimming.
So the next time you catch a strong whiff of you what think is chlorine, think again! You may want to ask when they last added chlorine to the pool!
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HEALTHY AND SAFE SWIMMING VISIT THE CDC WESBITE AT WWW.CSC-OV/HEALTHYSWIMMING/
It’s a beautiful world!
See it well! Swim Healthy!