Water and Contact Lenses Don’t Mix

Contact lens on water

Many people believe that water is a must and have no issues, primarily when used for cleaning. After all, are we not advised to use the same to ensure we maintain our health? Although this is true, water is not always welcome, especially when contact lenses are involved. Simply put, water and contact lenses are a bad combination regardless of the source of water. 

With summer upon us, the issue of water and contact lenses will be on the rise, given that most people will be looking to escape the summer heat by relaxing by the water bodies. While such activities are important for the other parts of the body, they might be detrimental to the eyes of contact lens wearers. Avoiding water is one of the essential sanitation rules, and most people tend to forget or ignore the rule. Swimming with one’s contacts on is the leading cause of alarm, as more and more people are admitting to doing this. 


Here is why water and contact lenses should never come into contact:

Contact lenses ‘are like sponges’

According to numerous organizations and agencies such as the FDA, at no point should contacts be exposed to water. This includes tap water, which many people deem to be safe. However, despite adding chlorine in a bid to kill bacteria, the process is not usually a hundred percent effective. This often leaves harmful bacteria existing in tap water. 

Contact lenses are like sponges, a factor that gives them the ability to absorb anything in the water, including chemicals and/or bacteria present. One of the most dangerous bacteria is Acanthamoeba, and it thrives in freshwater bodies such as rivers, lakes, and wells. The bacteria is posing risks to the eye and usually leads to Acanthamoeba keratitis. Although it is treatable, the infections caused by the bacteria are generally painful and can lead to blindness or cornea transplant in severe cases. 

In case your contact lens has come into contact with water, one should make use of artificial tears to float the lens. Afterward, you should clean your hands with water and soap and dry with a lint-free towel before removing it. This should be followed by cleaning and disinfecting the lens with sterile solutions. For disposable lenses, one should take that opportunity to dispose of the lens. In case of further eye irritation after being in the pool, one should seek medical advice. 


Ultra Violet protection essential when around water bodies

It is not always about getting water in the contact lenses that are harmful. Other issues such as UV rays pose risks to all people, although more needs to be done for contact lens wearers. As such, people need to take the necessary precaution when next to water bodies. When next to large water bodies, one must take extra caution, given that sand and water tend to reflect light increasing risks of damage to one’s eyes. 

In most cases, these reflections of the UV rays tend to cause photokeratitis. This condition is also called “sunburn of the eye”. It usually leads to red eyes, a foreign-body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing. To restrain the chances of such problems, one is advised to have sunglasses as they help block a majority of the rays. 


Water sports and eye safety

So, what should people who wear contact lenses and are active in sports do? To understand how one can take care of their eyes when participating in water sports, one should visit an optometrist who can adequately advise on the issue. For instance, people participating in swimming and water skiing can address the issue of vision correction by using prescription googles. For people looking to block UV rays, they can rely on appropriate sunglasses, especially when near large water bodies. 

For people who may find prescription goggles and sun eyewear cumbersome, they can utilize disposable lenses as they offer the best sanitation. However, one should make sure that water containing chorine and salt does not find its way into the eyes. Using dailies and prescription goggles enhances the chances of having an eye infection. 


Why storing contacts in water is ill-advised and uncomfortable

Although it may seem weird to many people, storing contacts in water can simply be termed suicidal, as it can lead to medical complications. Apart from containing bacteria, numerous differences between water and tears pose numerous challenges. For example, the acidity levels between the two are different, with tears also being saltier compared to water. Because of these differences, water can lead to the contact lenses becoming disfigured and making them stick to your eyes after being applied. This may cause discomfort and lead to blurred vision. 


Ways to reduce eye infection 

1. The phrase protection is better than cure comes in handy here. Usually, eye infections are as a result of bacteria and other microorganisms being trapped in the contact lenses. As such, removing the lenses before the commencement of any water sport is the best way around avoiding infections. 

2. Wear contact lenses as prescribed by your optometrist. For example, one should not have dailies for more than one day. 

3. One should ensure that the lenses are cleaned as advised. 

4. Wash your hands with water and soap and dry them using a lint-free towel. 

5. How we store contact lenses determines the risks we are exposed to; thus, one should ensure that they replace the contact lens case after every three months. 

6. When water comes into contact with the lenses, one should remove them immediately and either throw them away or disinfect them overnight before using them again. 


Bottom line

Although numerous techniques have been proposed on how to act when you have contacts on next to water bodies, there is no scientific evidence showing that the desired results will be achieved. Thus, the best way to avoid any form of infection due to bacteria in the water is to remove the contact lenses.

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