As the summer months get closer and we start looking forward to our holidays, lots of people are thinking about getting ‘beach/pool ready’. But are any of you considering your eyes?
Spectacles are not always ideal when you’re swimming in a pool or the sea, and so many people switch to contact lenses. Your local opticians should generally advise against contact lenses encountering any water, be it tap water, swimming pools, hot tubs or the oceans as water contains a multitude of microbes, bacteria and viruses which can lead to serious eye infections and potential loss of sight.
In general, anyone swimming will be at risk of eye infections due to the water going into their eyes. However, contact lens wearers are at much greater risk because the contact lens can sometimes trap harmful bacteria between the lens and the eye. In addition, contact lens wearers commonly have tiny scratches on the surface of their eyes due to the regular insertion and removal of their contact lenses. These scratches can then become an opening for the bacteria to breach the eye’s natural defenses. The most common of these bacterial ‘bugs’ are Pseudomonas Aeruginosa and Acanthamoeba, both of which can cause sight-threatening infections.
If you feel that you can’t swim without your contact lenses, then the safest option is to wear daily disposable contact lenses underneath a pair of air-tight goggles. This will reduce contact with the water, and therefore any bacteria too. The contact lenses can then be disposed of after swimming. It’s worth waiting a short while after removing your goggles before you remove your contact lenses, as they can sometimes dry a little and get ‘stuck’ on the eye. This also reduces the chances of irritation due to chemicals from the pool water penetrating the lens matrix.
Many people who wear monthly contact lenses also keep a reserve stock of daily disposable lenses specifically for swimming or holidays. Ask your local optician if you might be suitable for daily disposable contact lenses.