Being active is one of the primary reasons that people opt to switch from eyeglasses to contact lenses. Not worrying about making a spectacle of keeping your specs on your face allows a person to fully enjoy what he or she is doing. But some activities (exciting ones and routine ones) call for the lenses to be taken out. So keep the following actions in mind.
SwimmingIt’s a** very bad idea** to swim (or do any water sport, really) with contact lenses in.
The FDA warns against exposure to tap water, swimming pool water, ocean water, lake water, hot tub water or shower water. That about covers it, right? They’re not just being spoil sports. There’s a possibility of eye infections, irritation and potentially sight-threatening conditions such as a corneal ulcer.
Many eye care professionals caution against wearing contacts during these activities, although you will hear quite a few dissenting opinions from skiers. Problems arise from wind, glare, low humidity and low oxygen. These combine to dry out the lens, so your eyes will produce more tears to compensate, and your contacts may slide out. Goggles can reduce this risk, but they won’t eliminate it.
It’s technically not an “activity,” but sleeping takes up about a third of your life. Sure, you feel like collapsing into your bed at the end of a long day – but take two minutes to remove and properly store your contacts. Leaving them in reduces oxygen in the eye – a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Also, your eyes won’t get a chance for proper lubrication from your tear ducts.
Each year more than 230,000 Americans get injured showering. Here’s another danger: the acanthamoeba parasite. Often referred to (perhaps a little over-dramatically) as the “eye-eating amoeba,” this is a bug in tap water that eats at the eyeball and can cause blindness. It feeds on bacteria, sticks to contacts and burrows its way through the eye’s cornea. It’s very rare, but it’s out there.
Long-term sun exposureThere are contact lenses that include an ultraviolet filter, but none (so far) that can take the place of full UV-blocking sunglasses. About 10 percent of cataract cases are attributable to UV exposure. Also, too much exposure to the sun or tanning machines can literally burn the cornea. So** exchange (or supplement) your contacts with sunglasses** (which we all agree are pretty cool, anyway, don’t we?).
Saunas are a bad place for contact lenses, since the heat may cause your eyes to dry out. You might get a burning feeling, or the sensation that something is in your eye. If you decide you must wear your lenses in a sauna (for reasons we won’t speculate upon), blinking often may keep your eyes and lenses moist. After the sauna, immediately put your lenses in cleaning solution for 10 minutes or so.
Jack wrote for HealthCentral as an editor on vision care, skin care, and mental health.