Swimming while wearing contact lenses is always a gamble without proper protection. You could catch an infection, garner harmful buildup on your contacts, or even worse, damage your eyes. On the other hand, infections and eye damage from swimming with contacts are relatively rare, so in the end decision is up to you. Though it might seem inconvenient to remove them before you go swimming, here are a few potential risks of swimming with contacts lenses.
"You should always consult your personal eye doctor and use your best judgment before you decide to swim while wearing contacts," says Dr. Hodgson of FramesDirect.com.
Contacts Aren't Designed for Swimming
Your contacts are special to you. They have a unique curvature that enables them to bond to your eyes like little suction cups to prevent them from falling out. When submerged underwater, be it a lake or a swimming pool, the excess water disrupts the bond between the contacts and the eye, causing the contacts to slip and become dislodged. This is why so many people lose their contacts while swimming; the contact isn't designed for water submersion without some kind of protection.
Contacts Aren't Protective
Though they may appear solid, certain types of contacts are designed to be slightly porous to allow the eyes to breath. This permeable aspect means that microbes, chemicals, and bacteria can filter through the contact and become lodged between the eye and the contact. These harmful impurities can cause infections, irritations, and damage to the eye.
Chlorine Sticks to Contacts
Small amounts of pool chlorine normally don't affect the eye, unless there are contacts involved. Chlorine sticks to contacts, so when swimmers who are wearing contacts open their eyes underwater, the chlorine can occasionally attach to the contacts and irritate the eyes. This can lead to many bad scenarios, such as eye infection and corneal scratching or scarring.
How to Swim with Contacts
The only way to swim while wearing contacts without risking any eye damage is to wear goggles. Goggles create a natural air barrier around the eyes, which prevents infections from water, and helps secure the contacts within the eyes. Prescription goggles are also available if the swimmer wishes to remove their contacts before wearing goggles. In any case, use your best judgment.