To the swimming pool, never with contact lenses - Instituto Oftalmológico Fernández-Vega

To the swimming pool, never with contact lenses

15/07/2015
Especially vulnerable to infections, individuals who cannot be without then should wear prescription sunglasses, swimming goggles or diving masks.

•    In summer, a higher contact with the sun and water can lead to severe risks for our eye health. 

•    Fresh water (ponds, lakes, rivers, swimming pools…) usually contains bacteria and parasites such as amoebas, if these colonise the cornea, they can cause the need for surgical treatment such as transplants or even blindness. 

•    In the same way in which we protect our skin by applying cream, we must take care of our eyes using glasses with the appropriate lenses.

 

“In summer, contact with the sun and water is much higher than during the rest of the year, an exposure that can imply important risks to our eye health due to, a priori harmless aspects such as the products used to disinfect the water of the swimming pools, and more severe ones such as the infectious agents that can be present in the water” states Jesús Merayo, professor at Universidad de Oviedo and researcher of the Instituto Universitario Fernández-Vega. He also draws attention to the fact that crowds can also be a focus of infection and stresses the special vulnerability of those individuals who use contact lenses. 

For example, the chemical products used to sanitise swimming pool water can cause irritative conjunctivitis or other infections that are easily treated. However, it is worth noting that all water except seawater, i.e. fresh water (ponds, lakes, rivers, swimming pools…), usually contains bacteria and parasites. “Amoebas are one of these parasites that can be present even in tap water. If these colonise, for example, the cornea, they can cause acanthamoeba keratitis, an infection that presents with pain, photosensitivity, swelling of the eyelid, itchy eyes and tearing; the most severe cases might even need surgical treatment such as transplants or even cause blindness,” explains the physician. 

Especially weak before infections, approximately 95% of all cases of this disease are reported on individuals who use contact lenses. “The eye has a good defence mechanism against bacteria and parasites. However, contact lenses modify the ocular surface, making their users less protected against these. Add to this the fact that this individuals may have minor ulcers or erosions, the risk of infection is subsequently very high,” explains the expert. 

Therefore, Dr Merayo strongly recommends the 3 million users of contact lenses in Spain to forget about contact lenses when they go to the swimming pool, saunas or Spas; those who cannot do without must use prescription sunglasses or swimming goggles or diving masks. Contact lenses should only be used when they find themselves again under the proper conditions, and always after cleaning them correctly using the pertinent solutions, “never with tap water or in the changing room shower”.

The reflection of the sun in the water and in the sand
Direct exposure to the sun or to the relfection of the rays of the sun both in the water and in the sand also constitute an important risk for our eyes. “In the same way in which we protect our skin by applying cream or wearing a T-shirt, we must take care of our eyes using glasses with the appropriate lenses, ones that filter the high light intensity and avoid burning of the periocular area and the cornea (ultraviolet or actinic keratitis) or in other tissues such as the retina (caused when one looks into the sun without protection during an eclipse),” he concludes.

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