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.
Contrary to popular belief, a cataract is not an eye disease, rather it is a natural age related change to the lens of the eye which causes it to become opaque and difficult to see through. Generally cataracts are very slow growing and most commonly develop in people over the age of 55. Signs and symptoms can be subtle at first, ranging from blurry vision, glare from headlights, difficulty driving at night and frequent eyeglass prescription changes. Most people come into the office complaining that their glasses are not working when in reality they are experiencing blurred vision from cataracts.
So what exactly is a cataract? There is a part of the eye called the lens which is located behind the iris, the colored part of the eye and it functions to focus light on the retina. When we are young the lens is clear and flexible but as we age the lens becomes opaque or cloudy and consequently images on the retina become blurred. Cataracts can also form in patients with diabetes, smokers, and those on certain medications like steroids. There is no proven way to prevent cataracts but UV protection, smoking cessation and a healthy diet that includes antioxidants can help prevent their premature development.
How do we treat cataracts? When cataracts start to interfere with quality of life and ability to function, surgical removal of the cataract is indicated. The lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an artificial lens which greatly improves vision. The most common comment I get on the first day after the operation is how bright and beautiful colors look. As with any surgery there are risks, but we co-manage surgery with the best cataract surgeons in order to ensure the best possible outcomes.
If you’ve read enough of my blog posts, you’ve probably figured out that I am a little obsessed with both the short and long term effects that digital devices have on our eyes. I am particularly interested in the effects it has on kids since many of them are exposed to some kind of tech as early as the first year of life. Recently, a company called EyePromise debuted a vitamin named Screen Shield Teen aimed at kids aged 4-17 that is a supplement meant to support and preserve visual comfort and wellness for this age group. The main ingredients are 5 mg of dietary zeaxanthin and 2.5 mg of lutein which are antioxidants that help eradicate free radicals produced by blue light and help protect the macular pigment which is crucial for developing eye health. The vitamin is a fruit punch flavored chewable that is gluten free and can be taken together with regular multivitamins. Increasing amounts of children and teens are coming into my practice with complaints of tired eyes, headaches and eye strain from too much screen time and aside from the common sense advice of decreasing screen time this vitamin could play a part as well in protecting young eyes from future damage.
When my daughter was a toddler in the 1990’s we bought her a Sesame Street computer game, fully prepared to teach her how to wield the mouse and click her way around Elmo’s playroom. To our shock and delight she was a natural, skillfully manipulating her way around the game as if the mouse was an extension of her hand. Twenty years later we take it for granted that our kids are born with a natural affinity for anything involving technology and researchers are trying to figure out exactly how the digital world should fit into our children’s lives.
A few days ago the World Health Organization (WHO) came out with their first ever guidelines for how much screen time is healthy for kids under the age of five. They recommended no screen time at all for babies under a year old and less than an hour a day for kids ages three to four. Their definition of screen time included TV and videos, electronic devices, and computer games. Their recommendations were based not necessarily on the fact that screen time is inherently bad for little ones, but that increased screen time increases sedentary behavior which in turn leads to decreased physical activity. It is the emphasis on physical activity which is the key point to these WHO guidelines. Dr. Fiona Bull, a program manager at WHO had this to say: “Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and well-being, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life”. Other childhood researchers disagreed with the new guidelines saying that they did not take into account the quality of the digital interactions, only the quantity. So what’s the upshot of these new recommendations? As with most things in life, moderation and common sense go a long way in figuring out how to interpret this kind of advice.
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.