Expert says swimming with contact lenses can lead to complications

Baylor College of Medicine: Taking a dip in some cool water is one of the best ways to beat the heat this summer. While there are many water safety tips out there, Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Sumitra Khandelwal says those who wear contact lenses should take extra precaution when it comes to protecting the eyes.

“There are several problems with swimming in contacts including irritation, minor infections and even severe infection such as ulcer,” said Khandelwal, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Baylor who specializes in cornea diseases. “You can get these infections through water like rivers, lakes, hot tubs and even regular pool water.”

One rare but devastating eye infection is called acanthamoeba, caused by tiny parasites infecting the eye leading to pain, redness and blurred vision. The infection is difficult to diagnose and can worsen quickly. “There are other infections that can develop like bacterial infections and fungal infections in contact lens wearers, but this is the most difficult to diagnose and treat with many patients ending up with vision loss,” she said.

Another infection that may occur if you wear your contacts in general without taking care of them is called pseudomonas. “These bacteria love water,” said Khandelwal. “They need natural water to grow. They stick to contacts and eventually contact lens cases. Pseudomonas bacteria also like to invade the cornea through micro scratches which occur when swimming but can also invade even when just removing lenses.”

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