Why You Should Never Swim With Contact Lenses

As summer approaches, many of us look forward to beach days, pool parties, and water sports. However, if you wear contact lenses, it’s important to be aware of the risks associated with swimming in them.

Contact lens wearers are at far greater risk of swimming related eye infections than the rest of the population. The advice from the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) is it’s safer not to swim in contact lenses at all; and here is why.

The Risks of Swimming with Contact Lenses

Swimming with contact lenses can lead to serious eye infections and other issues. Water in pools, lakes, and the sea can contain harmful microorganisms that can get trapped under your lenses.

The worst culprits for infections are bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and an amoeba known as Acanthamoeba. Both of these can cause very painful infections which result in sight loss or in rare cases, blindness.

A contact lens can trap one of these microscopic bacteria against the eye and contact lens wearers are also more likely to have a miniscule scratch on the eye, which is an open door for these bacteria to penetrate the eye’s surface. Fortunately, these types of infections are rare, but swimming in contact lenses does greatly increase this risk.

Now, let’s get technical. Surely chlorine in swimming pools kills these bugs? Not all of them: Acanthamoeba exists in two forms in its life cycle, the trophozoite form and the cystic form. The trophozoites are single-celled organisms which have that classic amoeba look: blobby brainless things which feed on other cells such as bacteria and cornea cells.

The cysts are microscopic, dormant, double-walled capsules that can resist chemical disinfection and medical treatments like eye drops. High concentrations of chlorine do not kill the amoeba cysts. In fact the cysts can proliferate in the pool’s filter so the filter must be cleaned regularly by reversing the flow.

Lots of people scuba diving in the sea

Daily Disposable vs. Reusable Lenses

Understandably, you do need to see which child is yours and if you’re swimming in the sea, a lake or a river, it’s great to be able to see the detail of underwater life beneath you. It’s safer not to swim in contact lenses at all, but if you absolutely have to, the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) advice for swimmers is to use daily disposable lenses with a well-sealed pair of goggles or mask and discard the lenses immediately after you finish swimming. 

For those who wear monthly (reusable) contact lenses, the risk is even higher as these lenses are designed to last longer, providing more opportunity for bacteria to build up. Consider switching to daily disposables for your holiday to reduce the risk.


Practical Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

  1. Wear Goggles: If you’re planning to swim, invest in a good pair of waterproof goggles to see clerly without the risk of infection. They provide a barrier between your lenses and the water. We can advise you on prescription dive masks and goggles. 

  2. Keep Lenses Out of the Bathroom: Avoid wearing contact lenses in the shower or in environments where water is present. Water can introduce harmful microorganisms to your eyes.

  3. Use Daily Disposables on Holiday: If you usually wear reusable lenses, consider using daily disposables for your holiday, especially if you’re visiting areas where water quality is questionable.

  4. Try Night Lenses: Night lenses are worn overnight to correct short-sighted vision and removed in the morning. This can be a great option if you want to avoid wearing lenses during the day altogether.


Your eye health is crucial, and taking precautions while enjoying water activities can prevent serious infections. For more information and personalised advice, visit us at EK Eyewear. Have a safe and fun summer!

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