The American Refractive Surgery Council (ARSC) Discusses Why Contacts and Glasses Can Be A Bummer In The Summer

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Contact lenses are a very popular vision correction option. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strongly advises against using them while swimming in pools, lakes, rivers, hot tubs, or oceans to avoid the risk of contamination or severe vision threatening infection. The American Refractive Surgery Council recommends those who wish to enjoy fun in the sun with less risk while maintaining great vision, or whose occupations require them to be around the water, should talk to their refractive surgeon about the benefits of LASIK.

“If you love the water, being limited by contact lenses and glasses does not have to put a damper on the fun,” said Eric D. Donnenfeld, M.D., F.A.C.S. and ARSC member. "Talk to your surgeon about the benefits of LASIK."

Contact lenses are a very popular vision correction option.  However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strongly advises against using them while swimming in pools, lakes, rivers, hot tubs, or oceans to avoid the risk of contamination or severe vision threatening infection. Those who wish to enjoy fun in the sun with less risk while maintaining great vision, or whose occupations require them to be around the water, should talk to their refractive surgeon about the benefits of LASIK.

“Many of my patients are shocked to learn about the very real hazards related to wearing contact lenses while enjoying typical summer activities,” said Eric D. Donnenfeld, M.D., F.A.C.S. and member of the American Refractive Surgery Council. “People turn to contact lenses to rid themselves of the inconvenience of glasses for outdoor fun, so it is natural to be disappointed in their limitations. The downside of contact lenses is one of the many reasons vision correction procedures like LASIK are so popular.”

The chief concern about wearing contact lenses in or around the water stems from the risk of contamination from bacteria and other microorganisms. These are present in all types of water including chlorinated pool water and tap water and pose a significant threat to vision. A few facts about the risk of contact lens use in water:

  •     A study by Indiana University showed that 100% of soft contact lenses used in pool swimming were contaminated when cultured.
  •     According to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology (October, 2006), contact lens wearers have a one in 2,000 chance of contracting a sight-threatening eye infection.
  •     Lenses can absorb water as they adjust to the surrounding water content, which causes the lens to stick to the cornea.
  •     It can take up to 30 minutes after swimming for lenses and the tear film to return to normal and removal of the lenses before they equilibrate can damage the cornea, creating a passage for bacteria and potential infection.

Eyeglasses may not be a useful alternative to contacts. While sunglasses are a hallmark of the summer season, for those who wear prescription lenses, seeing clearly in the water simply may not be possible presenting an enormous inconvenience and safety issue.

“Most people recognize that glasses aren’t really an option in the water. Even if you can put up with water spots on your lenses, the risk of losing your glasses as well as hurting yourself is significant,” said Dr. Donnenfeld. “Even high-performance goggles with prescription lenses don’t stand up well to surfing, waterskiing and kayaking.”

Not surprisingly, summertime’s tradition of spending time in the water brings with it an increase in interest in the LASIK procedure. For those weighing their vision correction options, the American Refractive Surgery Council offers a few insights:

  •     Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) uses laser technology to reshape the cornea to reduce or eliminate the visual irregularities that cause nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism.
  •     LASIK is a safe and effective vision correction option. Compared to contact lenses, LASIK has a significantly higher safety profile. Clinical data reports that the risk of vision loss is much higher with contact lenses than LASIK.
  •     While today’s LASIK technology means more people than ever can take advantage of its vision correcting abilities, not everyone is a candidate. Approximately 20 percent of patients are not candidates for the procedure.
  •     Because it is an elective procedure, LASIK is a personal choice; one that should be thoroughly considered. Becoming an informed patient, carefully researching and selecting a highly qualified surgeon and understanding what LASIK can and cannot do are essential elements of a successful outcome.

“If you love the water, being limited by contact lenses and glasses does not have to put a damper on the fun,” said Dr. Donnenfeld. “Talk with your ophthalmologist about your options and find out if you are one of the millions who can benefit from vision correction with LASIK.”

About ARSC
The American Refractive Surgery Council (ARSC) is a cooperative working group made up of refractive surgery industry representatives and medical professionals. ARSC promotes the interests and general welfare of the refractive surgery industry in the United States. Its primary function is to educate the public about the safety, clinical outcomes and lifestyle benefits of refractive surgery, including LASIK and refractive intraocular lens implants, and supporting research into laser- and IOL-based refractive technologies.

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Liana Miller

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