Why water isn’t the solution to caring for your lenses
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Whether it’s from your sink at home, at the beach or puddles from a pond, the message is the same: Do not get your contact lenses wet with anything other than cleaning solution.
Unlike human tears that are salty, most other sources are not. Contact lenses can absorb the water and swell, causing the shape of the lens to change. If this happens, it may cause your contact lenses to not fit correctly, resulting in an uncomfortable experience. But that’s not the only risk…
Materials used in the production of contact lenses varies between product types and so different types of lenses can cause different problems. Soft contacts, for example, are porous and can absorb irritants such as chemicals. Another problem is that by wiping away our tears, water may exacerbate conditions such as dry eye.
Using water to clean your contacts can create microscopic breaks in your cornea. The issue isn’t the damage per se, but the infections that can result when those breaks allow microorganisms to enter the eye.
When it comes to cleaning, the answer is simple: Use contact lens solution only. That means no shortcuts like rinsing them in the sink or your mouth. Your saliva is ridden with bacteria that belongs in your mouth, not your eyes!
One microbe in particular causes most of the problems for those who wear their lenses in water. Acanthamoeba is found in bodies of water such as lakes and rivers, as well as tap water and swimming pools. It can stick to the surface of your contact lens and cause an eye infection.
Symptoms range from feeling like something’s in your eye to severe pain. You may also notice a halo effect around your eye. Treatment options vary, but often a professional will prescribe topical ointments or antiseptic drops
Seeing at Sea
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Most people make the mistake of wearing their contacts to swim or play in the water for one of two reasons: First, they can’t see without them and second, it seems a lot easier just to keep them in.
For all the reasons mentioned previously, that’s not the best thing to do!
If you absolutely, positively must swim with your contact lenses in for a particular event or occasion, daily disposables are the only option to consider. If you do decide to wear them in water, be sure to dispose of them immediately after.
So, what’s the solution, if you’ll pardon the pun? Research and then purchase well-made swim goggles, either in your prescription or plano (non-prescription). Just be aware that ready-made, over-the-counter prescription goggles may not match your complete prescription. We also recommend that you look for UV protection in any goggles that you consider wearing. Plus, remember to keep your lenses safe while you’re in the water.
Convenience & Care
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Taking good care of your eyes requires taking three important steps:
- maintaining good hygiene and lens care habits
- investing in commercially made contact lens cleaning solutions and keeping it with you
- always having a well-maintained contact lens case handy, for the monthly wearers
We’d also suggest bringing along lubricating drops to use post-swim as well, to help keep your tear film happy and your eyes comfortable.
For many, contact lenses offer the most convenient vision correction, but with that convenience comes responsibility. Care for your eyes and your lenses, and you’ll be able to enjoy that beach, pool or even hot tub problem-free.