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Here's why you should remove your contacts before swimming

Here's why you should remove your contacts before swimming

(Vova Shevchuk/

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It can be a hassle to take your contact lenses out before swimming and most people don't want to wear goggles the entire time they are in a pool. However, there are good reasons you should take out those contacts before diving in, explains Timothy Gibbons, OD, an optometrist at the John A. Moran Eye Center at University of Utah Health.

Even though wearing contacts helps you see better while swimming, wearing them in the water is especially dangerous because of prolonged exposure, according to Healthline.

Here are some of the reasons to remove them before you jump into a pool, lake or ocean or even before you shower.

  • Swimming with contacts can result in eye infections, irritation, and potentially sight-threatening conditions such as a corneal ulcer.
  • The FDA recommends that contacts not be exposed to any type of water, including tap water, swimming pools, oceans, lakes, hot tubs and showers. "It doesn't matter if it's freshwater or a chlorinated pool," Gibbons says. "There are bugs and pathogens that chlorine doesn't kill, which could potentially cause infection, ulcers, or damage to the cornea."
  • Even showering in tap water exposes your eyes to all sorts of viruses and microbes — one of the scariest being Acanthamoeba. The CDC notes this bug causes your cornea to become infected and inflamed and can result in permanent vision loss or the necessity of a corneal transplant.
  • Fresh bodies of water and water in swimming pools can cause soft lenses to tighten against your eye, causing significant irritation.
  • Soft lenses are porous, allowing chemicals and bacteria to lodge inside the lens and press against your eye, increasing the chances of infection and irritation.

If you did jump in with your contacts, Gibbons offers this advice:

  • Remove the contacts immediately after swimming and soak them in contact solution for 24 hours. Allowing the lenses to be completely disinfected eliminates the risk of exposing your eyes to bacteria that could have easily been absorbed into the lenses.
  • Alternate between two pairs of contacts, or wear glasses while your contact lenses soak.
  • If you're experiencing any irritation or other symptoms, make an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist to get it checked out.

"When it comes to contact lenses, we are experts at Moran," Gibbons says. "We can answer any questions, treat any problems, and make sure you're wearing the best type of contact lenses for your eyes and practicing the best wearing schedule for your lifestyle."

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John A. Moran Eye Center


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