Why Contact Lenses and Water Don’t Mix 

Why Contact Lenses and Water Don’t Mix 

Drop hitting surface of water

If you wear contact lenses, you may find yourself tempted to keep them in while you swim or shower. While contacts are a versatile way to correct your vision in situations where glasses might not be practical, it is not safe to wear contact lenses in situations where they may be exposed to water. In this blog we’ll discuss the dangers of water for contact lens wearers. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most water is not germ free. Bacteria can thrive in water from almost any source, including water found in lakes, wells, taps, pools, and hot tubs. One of the most dangerous types of bacteria for your eyes is an amoeba known as Acanthamoeba. This germ can cause an infection known as Acanthamoeba Keratitis. This painful eye infection may take months to treat and can lead to serious complications such as corneal transplant or even blindness. In people with compromised immune systems, it may cause a very rare form of infection known as Granulomatous Amebic Encephalitis (GAE). 

While Acanthamoeba can affect anyone, over 85% of cases occur in contact lens wearers. This is because contact lenses irritate the surface of the cornea, causing minor corneal abrasions to occur. These tiny abrasions give bacteria a pathway into the underlying layers of the cornea, where it causes damage. 

According to the CDC, these practices may increase risk of developing Acanthamoeba Keratitis:

  • Storing and handling lenses improperly
  • Disinfecting lenses improperly (such as using tap water or topping off solutions when cleaning the lenses or lens case)
  • Swimming, using a hot tub, or showering while wearing lenses
  • Coming into contact with contaminated water
  • Having a history of trauma to the cornea

Preventing Acanthamoeba infection is key. The CDC offers these guidelines to reduce the risk of Acanthamoeba and other eye infections:

  • Visit your eye care provider for regular eye examinations.
  • Wear and replace contact lenses according to the schedule prescribed by your eye care provider.
  • Remove contact lenses before any activity involving contact with water, including showering, using a hot tub, or swimming.
  • Wash hands with soap and water and dry before handling contact lenses.
  • Clean contact lenses according to instructions from your eye care provider and the manufacturer’s guidelines.
    1. Never reuse or top off old solution. Use fresh cleaning or disinfecting solution each time lenses are cleaned and stored.
    2. Never use saline solution or rewetting drops to disinfect lenses. Neither solution is an effective or approved disinfectant.
    3. Be sure to clean, rub, and rinse your lenses each time you remove your lenses. Rubbing and rinsing your contact lenses will aid in removing harmful microbes and residues.
  • Store reusable lenses in the proper storage case.
    1. Storage cases should be rubbed and rinsed with sterile contact lens solution (never use tap water), emptied, and left open to dry after each use.
    2. Replace storage cases at least once every three months.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. To schedule an eye exam, call or text (907) 328-2920.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Sources of Infection and Risk Factors

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/acanthamoeba/infection-sources.html

CDC, Microbial Keratitis, https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/acanthamoeba/microbial-keratitis.html

Photo by Johnny Brown on Unsplash

Written by: Gina Stafford COA, LDO, ABOC

Posted in: Uncategorized

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