Swimming with contact lenses in your eyes is not recommended, no matter how tempting it is to have crystal-clear vision as you cannonball into the pool. The associated risks—eye infection, irritation, losing your lenses, and even more serious issues—just aren’t worth it. 

But why don’t contact lenses and pool parties mix well together? Isn’t chlorine a disinfectant? And what about swimming in the ocean? We’ll answer these questions in more detail so that you can better care for your eyes, both on land and offshore. 

Is Swimming With Contacts In Safe? 

No, swimming with your contacts in puts you at risk for multiple eye issues, including dryness, irritation, and infection. In rare cases, it can lead to serious infections or corneal ulcers that endanger your vision and eye health. 

You might think that your contact lenses would act as a shield between your eyes and the water. But contact lenses are actually porous—they need to be, to let your eyes breathe. This means that bacteria and other substances present in a body of water can get stuck in the contact lens material, or they can even get past your contact and onto your eye. What’s worse, they can become trapped between the lens and your eye, causing more damage than they would if you weren’t wearing contacts. 

The Risks of Swimming With Contact Lenses in Your Eyes

Swimming with contact lenses in your eyes can cause the following problems:

  1. Irritation, redness, and/or dryness: When exposed to water, soft contact lenses can tighten or stick to the surface of your eye and cause discomfort. Chlorine and saltwater can also irritate your eyes, especially once they get under a contact lens. 
  2. Eye infection: Bacteria and other microorganisms that live in water have a better chance of giving you an eye infection if you’re swimming while wearing your contacts. They can attach to the contact lens itself or have an easier time adhering to the surface of your eye because the contact lens helps to hold them there. A severe eye infection can lead to a corneal ulcer, which may require surgical intervention to treat and can cause vision loss. 
  3. Corneal abrasions: Tiny particles or debris in the water can become trapped under your contact lens and rub against your eye, scratching the cornea’s surface
  4. The loss of your lenses: Your contact lenses can easily fall out of your eyes if you wear them in a body of water. 

Symptoms To Look for After Swimming With Contacts In

If you’ve been in the water while wearing your contacts, look out for these possible signs of trouble:

  • Irritated, sore, or painful eyes
  • Dry or extremely watery eyes
  • Red eyes 
  • Itchy eyes
  • The feeling that you can’t get something out of your eye 
  • Eye discharge
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity

The above symptoms could point to an eye infection caused by swimming in your contacts. Getting your eyes diagnosed and treated is the best way to address these problems and prevent further complications. Always book an appointment with an optometrist to be safe and sure! 

Can You Wear Contacts in the Pool? 

No, you should not wear contact lenses while swimming in a pool. Even though chlorine acts as a disinfectant for the water, it does not eliminate all the germs that can cause an eye infection. Chlorine can also irritate your eyes on its own, and wearing contacts often exacerbates this irritation. 

Can You Wear Contacts in the Ocean or in Fresh Water? 

No, it’s not a good idea to wear contact lenses in the ocean (or in any body of water, salty or fresh). Contacts can trap bacteria from these environments against the surface of your eye and increase your chance of infection. 

When it comes to swimming in the great outdoors, eye doctors worry about one microorganism in particular: Acanthamoeba. It’s an amoeba present in nature and in tap water that can cause an especially dangerous eye infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis. If this condition goes untreated, it can result in permanent vision loss.

Can You Open Your Eyes Underwater With Contacts In? 

You should not open your eyes underwater while wearing your contact lenses. Your contact lenses will not function like goggles—they’re porous! Not only are you more likely to lose your lenses this way, but germs and debris from the water can pass through your contact lens and find their way to the eye’s surface. 

Can You Wear Contacts Under Goggles?

You can wear contact lenses under swim goggles, but it’s important to ensure that the goggles have a good seal and won’t let any water near your eyes. Additionally, you should take care not to go underwater or get splashed while you’re above water and not wearing your goggles. 

Daily disposable contact lenses paired with goggles are the best choice if you must wear contacts while swimming. Because you dispose of these lenses after just one wear, they’re not as likely to foster an infection. Always toss them after your dip and put in a fresh pair! 

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Are There Waterproof Contact Lenses for Swimming?

No, there are no waterproof contact lenses that you can wear while swimming. Science hasn’t gotten that far yet! 

There are contact lenses that temporarily alter the shape of your cornea when worn overnight so that you can see more clearly when swimming during the day—without wearing anything on or in your eyes. Some watersports and swimming enthusiasts use this type of contact lens so they can offset their nearsightedness without endangering their eye health. 

What If You Already Went Swimming With Your Contacts In?

If you’ve gone swimming while wearing your contact lenses, monitor your eyes for any symptoms of irritation or infection. Give them a break from contact lenses for a day or so, and use glasses instead. If you notice anything concerning, schedule an appointment with an optometrist. It’s also best to throw out the lenses you swam in, to prevent further infection or irritation.

Is it safe to swim with contacts? No. Do lots of people do it anyway? Yes. Don’t beat yourself up if you forgot to take your contacts out before jumping in the pool—just try to remember not to do it in the future. 

The Only Liquid Your Contacts Should Swim in Is Contact Lens Solution 

Whether you’re swimming laps, playing in the surf, or learning to kneeboard, it’s always best to take your contacts out before you get in the water. You might not see as perfectly, but you’ll be protecting your eyes. Consider some prescription sunglasses if you won’t be getting dunked under too often! 

As for your contacts, if they’re not daily disposables, you’ll want to clean them after taking them out and store them in a clean case filled with fresh contact solution, and then make sure to clean them again before putting them back in your eyes. Following these tips will keep your eyes clean and healthy during (and after) any aquatic adventures.

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