The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that you should not expose your contact lenses to any form of water. This includes swimming pools and hot tubs. (Learn More) Swimming with your contacts in can lead to possible eye infections. (Learn More)
It can be safer to wear contact lenses than eyeglasses during regular exercise. Wearing contacts can help you to perform better in some sports. (Learn More)
There are several forms of contact lenses you can wear during exercise, and there are various options for prescription eyewear for athletes. (Learn More)
Swimming With Contacts
One of the number one things the experts say, including the FDA, is that you should not get water on your contacts. It recommended to take them out before bathing, showering, or swimming.
If you do get your contacts wet and expose them to water, you should take them out and clean them as soon as possible.
If you are wearing daily disposable contacts and swim with them in, be sure to take them out right after getting out of the pool and dispose of them. Then, put in new ones.
The general rule is to replace your contacts as soon as you can after they come in contact with water.
If you want to wear your contacts while swimming, consider wearing swim goggles to keep your eyes and your contacts dry. You can also get prescription swim goggles made that can eliminate your need to wear contacts in the water, as they help you to see clearly while swimming.
Risks of Wearing Contacts to Swim
Swimming with contact lenses in can lead to an increased risk for eye infection. Bacteria can get trapped behind your lenses while you are swimming.
Pools, and especially hot tubs, can contain dangerous bacteria that can cause Acanthamoeba keratitis. This is a corneal infection that can cause:
- Eye irritation.
- Redness and swelling.
Never wear gas permeable lenses in the water. They could dislodge from your eye or move around and scratch your cornea. If you wear soft lenses, you can experience a lot of discomfort if the water causes them to become tighter and more rigid on your eye.
If you wear contact lenses, it is best to take them out before swimming.
Exercise & Contact Lenses
There are many advantages to wearing contact lenses while exercising and playing sports. Contacts can help you see more clearly while also countering some of the hazards of eyeglasses.
According to Optometry Times, wearing contacts during sports and exercise can provide:
- The ability to wear additional eye protection or eyewear.
- Improved peripheral vision.
- Fewer visual distortions or glares.
- UV protection.
- Less chance for injury from glasses frames or lenses.
- Improved eyesight.
Contact lenses aren’t affected by rain or dirt in the same way glasses are. If it’s raining, it’s very difficult to see out of your glasses, and the same is true if dirt is smeared on them. With contacts, you don’t face these same issues.
Answers for Athletes
Your eye doctor can help you determine which type of contact lenses are best for you and your lifestyle. If you regularly engage in vigorous exercise or sports, there are some specific types of contacts that can be beneficial.
Many athletes prefer the ease of daily disposable soft contact lenses. These lenses don’t need to be cleaned since they are replaced after every use. These contacts are easy to use. You simply throw them away at the end of the day and replace them with a new pair in the morning. If you are playing sports part-time or exercising occasionally, these soft contacts are likely to work just fine for your needs.
You can get custom-tinted contacts for sports. These are tinted in a specific way or color to enhance your sports experience. For example, tennis players can choose an amber-colored tint to help them see the ball more clearly, while golfers may go for a gray-green tint. These specialized lenses work to filter light rays in a selective way that can help to improve your reaction time.
Rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses can offer some of the best benefits for vigorous exercise and for athletes. RGP lenses are made from a harder material than daily disposable and soft contact lenses. These lenses:
- Provide more ability for your eyes to breathe, as they allow more oxygen to travel to your cornea.
- Won’t dry out your eyes as quickly, as they don’t pull moisture away from your eyes.
- Don’t accumulate debris from your perspiration and tears as fast, which keeps them cleaner.
- Keep their shape when you blink as opposed to soft contact lenses. This means your vision stays crisper.
RGP lenses can take some time to get used to and may not be ideal for part-time use, however. If you don’t plan on wearing them all the time, they may not be your best choice.
RGP lenses are also typically smaller in diameter than soft contact lenses. During vigorous exercise or sports, they can potentially get bumped and dislodged out of your eyes.
An answer to this problem is hybrid contact lenses, which are a combination of a gas permeable center with an outer soft lens surrounding it. These lenses are bigger than traditional RGP lenses, which helps them to stay in your eyes during contact sports and intense bouts of exercise. They can still offer all of the benefits of an RGP lens with the harder center.
Talk to your eye doctor about what types of prescription eyewear will best fit your eyes and activities. With the right eyewear, you can exercise freely while keeping your eyes protected and healthy.
While contacts aren’t the right choice for swimming, you have other eyewear options that can help you to see clearly while you swim.
Contact Lenses Risks. (September 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
12 Things You Should Never, Ever Do With Your Contacts. (October 2015). Cosmopolitan.
How to Swim With Contact Lenses. LIVESTRONG.
Prescribing Contact Lenses for Athletes. (March 2016). Optometry Times.