No, no and no. Not only can you not swim in them, but you can not expose your contact lenses to any type of water at all. This includes tap water, oceans, swimming pools, lakes, hot tubs, and even showers! Soft contact lenses absorb not only the water, but any viruses, bacteria, or other microbes that are living in the water. Although rare, an organism called Acanthamoeba which lives in impure water can attach itself to your contacts and cause your cornea to become extremely infected and inflamed and can cause permanent vision loss and/or a corneal transplant if not treated quickly and aggressively. A couple of weeks ago a young man from the UK shared his personal story of how he contracted Acanthamoeba – he initially thought he just scratched his eye putting in his contacts, but instead of getting better over time it got worse. Ultimately he was diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis and even after months of different treatments and procedures he unfortunately lost the vision in his eye. The doctors concluded that he contracted the infection because he showered daily in his contact lenses. Although this is definitely a worse case scenario at the very least the water can cause your contacts to tighten up on your eye and create discomfort or can wash away your natural tears causing dry eyes. Waterproof well fitting swim goggles can be worn over contacts but an even safer option is to purchase a pair of prescription swim goggles to eliminate all risks of contamination.
Imagine this – you go outside on a beautiful sunny day and realize that you left your sunglasses at home – ordinarily you would be squinting and uncomfortable but not anymore – now your contact lenses turn dark when you go outside! Acuvue Oasys, the wildly popular two week contact lens from Johnson and Johnson has joined technological forces with Transitions Optical to create Acuvue Oasys with Transitions. This new product got so much positive buzz that it was selected by Time Magazine as one of 2018’s BEST INVENTIONS OF 2018. Like the regular Oasys lens, the Oasys with Transitions is a two week lens that can be cleaned with either standard multipurpose solution or a hydrogen peroxide based system. It takes 30 seconds to activate when you go outside and ninety seconds to turn back to clear when you go back inside. When the lens is fully activated outside it filters 70% of outdoor light, and even inside it filters about 15% of indoor light. One important thing to realize is that although you are indeed blocking UV light on the eyeball itself when you wear these contacts, you still need sunglasses to protect the skin around your eyes as well as the other parts of your eye, and the contacts never get as dark as real sunglasses. Acuvue is recommending this lens for any patient who is bothered by light sensitivity, whether indoors our outdoors. They are also recommending it for patients who experience halos and starbursts when they drive at night, as well as to those who are bothered by computer lighting. The lens does change your eye color slightly when it is activated outdoors and in studies that were conducted on patients who tried this lens only 2% were bothered by the color shift. Check out the hashtag #SquintLessSeeMore for more cool information about this innovative product which is available through our office now.
Although we have talked about good contact lens hygiene in the past (remember the underwear analogy?) in honor of Contact Lens Health Week (August 20-24) I will reiterate some of the dos and don’ts of proper contact lens usage.
- Don’t sleep or nap in your contacts. Ever. This kind of risky behavior increases the chances of contact lens related eye infection by 6-8 times. These types of eye infections can lead to using drops hourly, vision loss, and surgery. Just Don’t Do It.
- Wash your hands before putting your fingers in your eyes to touch your contacts.
- Daily disposables are the healthiest modality of contact lens wear. If you do wear bi-weekly or monthly contacts make sure you are using fresh solution in your clean case every day and don’t wear your contacts beyond the recommended wear schedule. Yuk. An old dirty contact lens can also cause infections.
- No swimming or showering with contact lenses. Microbes in water can adhere to contacts and cause…you guessed it – terrible eye infections.
- If your eye hurts or looks red or weird don’t put your contact lenses in your eye and hope for the best – make an appointment ASAP with your optometrist.
- Make an appointment yearly to see your optometrist. Not all contact lens related complications are visible to the naked eye and a thorough professional evaluation is necessary to ensure your eyes are getting enough oxygen and have no corneal defects.
#onepairtakecare – you only get one pair of eyes – treat them well!
I was wandering down the the aisles in Target the other day buying all those wonderful things I never knew I needed. After wasting a few minutes agonizing over the merits of Rolos vs. Milky Way mini bars I escaped the endless rows of food paradise to find myself getting in the way of about ten red-shirted workers feverishly putting up a new display. After doing a tiny self congratulatory dance in my head that my days of back to school shopping were over I felt a burst of moral outrage that summer was being prematurely hijacked by an overeager business model. Seriously folks, couldn’t you have waited until August? As I made my way towards the checkout counter I began to reconsider my hasty condemnation of the sweet and innocent school supplies. Allow me to share with you a classic scenario that occurs in every eye doctor’s office the second to last week of August. Front desk staff picks up phone. “Um, hi, this is Mrs. OopsIforgot, my son is going back to college in three days and needs an appointment and a years worth of contact lens, and oh, he lost his glasses when he went kayaking down the Delaware, can you squeeze him into the schedule and get him everything he needs?” Experienced front desk staff calmly tells Mrs. OopsIforgot that Dr. Superduperbusy has been fully booked for August since June and she would put Master OopsIforgot on the waiting list. I will spare you the back and forth phone shenanigans that ensued between irate mom and calm staff member, but you get the picture. Summer is a great time for those back to school eye exams for your kids – so when those shiny, glittery school supplies start popping up on your radar make that call to our office to ensure that your kids are all set up for their annual checkups. Oh, and Target? I am sorry I ever doubted you….
Did that get your attention? Fantastic, keep reading! A few years ago the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) came out with a cute but slightly stomach churning info-graphic that compared wearing dirty underwear to misusing contact lenses. Daily contact lenses are meant to be worn once and then tossed – that’s why they are called “daily”. Reusing dailies is unhygienic and gross and can lead to potential eye infection and inflammation. The same way you would (hopefully) not reuse the underwear you wore yesterday, don’t reuse your dailies! Other modalities of contact lenses such as monthlies are meant to be reused, but continuing with our undergarment metaphor, like underwear they need to be thoroughly sanitized with appropriate cleansers before wearing again. Other bad contact lens habits the info-graphic highlights are not cleaning contacts with tap water or spit (NASTY!) and not buying non FDA approved contact lenses found in sketchy costume shops or the dollar store. The info-graphic ends off with the advice “Cover your butt, take care of your eyes”. Not the classiest analogy, but I’ll bet it’s a visual that might haunt you the next time you consider abusing your contact lenses!