Jun 04, 2019 12:00 AM


Late spring and early summer usher in all kinds of issues for contact lens wearers. Whether you’re new to contacts or have been wearing them for years, here’s what you need to know. 

Why you shouldn’t swim in contact lenses

Some advice is so valuable, it never changes—like the warnings about swimming, waterskiing, diving or otherwise immersing yourself in the water while wearing contacts.

John A. Moran Eye Center optometrist Dr. Brandon J. Dahl, OD, FAAO, couldn’t agree more with that advice.

“If you can function without your contacts, my best recommendation is to avoid wearing them in water—including rivers, lakes, the ocean, and swimming pools—and by all means, never in a hot tub if you’re going to dunk your head,” he says. “If you do wear them and get water in your eyes, then take the lenses out right away and dispose of them. True, there are some powerful cleaning solutions out there, but I wouldn’t risk the chance of infection.”

Water can be home to countless viruses and dangerous microbes. One of the most serious is the Acanthamoeba organism. It can attach to your lenses and cause inflammation and infection on the cornea. It’s so serious it can cause permanent vision loss or require a corneal transplant to recover lost vision if not treated early.

More reasons to keep your contacts out of the water  

Rigid gas permeable (GP) contact lenses may dislodge from your eye while you’re swimming, so it’s best to dive in without them. While soft contacts are more likely to stay on your eye, they are porous and can absorb chemicals and bacteria, increasing the risk of eye irritation and infection.

Also, fresh water and water in swimming pools can cause soft lenses to tighten on your eyes, and that hurts.

“Getting water in your eyes when swimming also rinses away the natural tears that lubricate your eyes and may make chronic dry eyes even worse,” says Dahl. “If you really need to swim with contact lenses, daily disposables are your safest option as long as you take them out once you’re out of the water.”

Another option for reducing risk is wearing waterproof swim goggles (even better if they’re also UV protective)—or prescription goggles, custom made to correct your vision.

What are transition lenses?

Similar to transition lenses in regular eyeglasses, new transitional contacts can help the eyes adjust to bright sunlight without squinting and reduce the halos and starbursts that can appear around bright light sources at night.

Dr. Dahl and a few of his patients have tried new FDA-approved “light adaptive” transition or adaptive lenses and have found them helpful. “However, they are not a substitute for sunglasses or UV-protecting eyewear,” he notes. 

On the horizon: contact lenses for allergy sufferers

It’s allergy season, so if you wear contacts, you probably know the feeling of red, itchy eyes that hurt so much you want to rub your eyes or douse them in eye drops. But of course, those are complicated options.

Rubbing your eyes is a no-no. And you can’t put eye drops in while wearing lenses. Even if you apply drops, then put your lenses in, the concentration of the drops may be too high and can cause irritation and complications.

Right now, researchers are conducting clinical trials for lenses that will come pre-loaded with slow-dissolving antihistamines.

“Stay tuned on this one,” says Dahl. “The dosage is a lot less than many people use, but the trade-off for convenience and comfort will be terrific.”

Find more information about the many types of contact lenses available here. 

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