A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Eye safety important during summer fun as water often contains bacteria that can cause eye infections

Looking to escape the summer heat, Kentuckians will flock to local pools, waterparks and lakes for a day of relaxing relief or to play water sports.

However, contact lens wearers sometimes break important sanitation rules and risk infection by wearing their contact lenses around water, which often contains bacteria. The Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA) offers contact lens wearers safety tips on how to keep their eyes healthy.

Contact lenses ‘are like sponges’

(From Creative Commons)

(From Creative Commons)

According to the FDA and the KOA, contact lenses should not be exposed to any kind of water, including tap water and water in showers.

“Contact lenses are like sponges and will absorb whatever is in the water, including any chemicals or bacteria that may be present,” said Dr. Max Downey, an optometrist in Columbia, Ky., and president of the KOA. “A rare but sight-threatening germ, Acanthamoeba, can be found in freshwater lakes, rivers and unclean tap water or well water and can cause a painful eye infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis. In the most severe cases, it can require a corneal transplant or even result in blindness.”

If a contact lens is accidentally splashed with water, you should:

• Use artificial tears to lubricate and float the lens on the eye.

• Wash and dry your hands and remove the lens.

• Clean and disinfect the lens with fresh sterile solution, or if it is a disposable lens, throw it away.

• Call an optometrist if more pain or redness is observed in the eyes than normal after being in the pool.

Eye safety and water sports

There are other options for those who need vision correction while enjoying the water, Downey said. For swimming, water skiing or other sports, prescription goggles that offer vision correction may be an option.

A durable, expertly fitted pair of prescription sun eyewear, which not only provides vision correction but also protects against harmful UV rays, is another option. Once out of the water, people need to be sure their hands are clean before inserting new contact lenses.

If a patient doesn’t want to wear prescription goggles or prescription sun eyewear, his or her optometrist may prescribe daily disposable contact lenses, which offer optimum sanitation since they are made to be thrown out every day.

“Patients will still need to be very careful not to get tap or swim water in their eyes while wearing contacts, and goggles are recommended for best protection, but disposable lenses make it easy to replace any contaminated lens with a fresh new one,” Downey said.

To find a doctor of optometry in your area, visit A href=”http://www.kyeyes.org”>www.kyeyes.org.

From Kentucky Optometric Association

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