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Don’t Swim With Contact Lenses!

Is it safe to wear contact lenses while swimming in a pool, lake or ocean?

The answer is simple: No. It’s not safe to wear contacts while immersed in water, even when showering. Water in swimming pools, oceans, lakes and even hot tubs is a natural breeding ground for bacteria and microorganisms. While our bodies have an innate defense system to protect us against harm from these microbes, you can still be at risk of a waterborne eye infection.

What are the risks of swimming while wearing contacts?

Although contact lenses should not be exposed to any sort of water, swimming while wearing contacts can be particularly risky due to the prolonged exposure to water. Water can be absorbed by the lenses, trapping viruses, bacteria and other pathogens against your eye.

Swimming in lakes, rivers, and oceans with contacts is more hazardous than swimming in a pool. This is due to the fact that natural bodies of water are more likely to have bacteria, viruses, and other hazardous organisms that pool chemicals destroy.

However, that doesn’t mean that wearing contact lenses while swimming in a pool is safe. Not all pathogens are killed by chlorine and other pool chemicals. Soft lenses are particularly porous, so pathogens and pool chemicals can still get into your eyes.

In addition to eye infections, wearing your contact lenses while swimming may raise your risk of:

  • corneal abrasion or scratch
  • corneal ulcers
  • dry eye syndrome, especially when swimming in a chlorinated pool or saltwater
  • eye inflammation (uveitis)
  • eye irritation due to lenses sticking to your eyes

Safety Tips for Swimming with Contact Lenses

Despite the risks, many people still choose to wear contact lenses while swimming in a pool or at the beach. Although eye doctors strongly discourage this practice, they’re aware of the reality.

Important note: The information below is not to be considered as medical advice. Always discuss swimming with contact lenses with your eye doctor beforehand. Each person will receive personalized advice on their individual risks as well as safety tips.

Here are some tips for how to minimize water-related danger to your eyes:

  • Non prescription goggles – Goggles that fit snugly will help keep water out of your eyes and lenses.
  • Prescription goggles – If you swim frequently, consider investing in a pair of prescription goggles that will eliminate the need to wear contact lenses.
  • Disinfect your lenses – After swimming with your contacts, disinfect your lenses in contact lens solution for 24 hours.
  • Consider dailies – Wearing daily contact lenses allows you to throw them away after swimming.
  • Rigid gas permeable lenses – If you’re a competitive swimmer, your doctor may suggest a special type of rigid gas permeable contact lenses that you wear overnight to reshape your cornea. This can eventually allow you to go contact-free during the day.
  • Laser Surgery – So that you don’t need to worry about contact lenses at all, you might want to consider laser eye surgery to help correct your vision.

Before you dive into the water, schedule an appointment with Washington Eye Doctors in Washington, D.C.. We’ll help you figure out the safest, most suitable way to enjoy clear vision while in the water.

At Washington Eye Doctors, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 202-335-5032 or book an appointment online to see one of our Washington, D.C. eye doctors.

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Sports-Related Eye Injuries

September Is Sports Eye Safety Month in Washington, D.C.!

Ocular sports trauma is among the leading causes of permanent vision loss in North America. Tens of thousands of people get treated for sports-related eye injuries a year, with the most common injuries occurring during water sports and basketball. Infections, corneal abrasions, eye socket fractures, and detached retinas are just a few of the typical cases eye doctors encounter on a regular basis.

Sports Eye Safety Month is sponsored by Prevent Blindness America (PBA) to remind people to protect their eyes when playing sports. Though young children are usually the most vulnerable to eye injuries, it should be noted that professional athletes can also suffer eye injuries while on the job.

Eye accidents can happen in a split second – the effects can last a lifetime…

By wearing protective eyewear, you can safeguard your eyesight without compromising on your favorite sports activities. Athletes who wear contact lenses still need additional eye protection for relevant sports.

At Washington Eye Doctors, our eye doctor is experienced and trained to treat sports-induced eye injuries sustained by our active patients. Dr. Michael Rosenblatt and our dedicated staff are committed to providing the most comprehensive eye care to help get you back on the field again. Furthermore, we provide consultations on a wide array of protective eyewear for all your sporting needs.

What Eye Injuries Can Be Caused by Sports?

Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion, also known as a scratched cornea, is the most common sports-related eye injury. When someone gets poked in the eye, the eye’s surface can get scratched. Symptoms may include acute pain and a gritty or foreign body sensation in the eyes, as well as redness, tearing, light sensitivity, headaches, blurry or decreased vision. Medical care includes prevention or treatment of infection, and pain management. If you suspect that you have suffered a corneal abrasion, make sure to see an eye doctor right away.

Traumatic Iritis

Iritis is an inflammation of the iris, the colored part of the eye. The condition rapidly develops and typically affects only one eye. Symptoms include pain in the eye or brow region, blurred vision, a small or oddly-shaped pupil, and sensitivity to bright lights.


Hyphema is among the more common sports-related eye injuries, with racquet sports, baseball and softball accounting for more than 50% of all hyphema injuries in athletics.

A hyphema is a broken blood vessel inside the eye which causes blood to collect in the space between the cornea and iris, also known as the “anterior chamber”. Although the main symptom is blood in the eye, it can be accompanied by blurry or distorted vision, light sensitivity or eye pain.

If you recognize the signs and symptoms of hyphema, make sure to seek immediate medical attention in order to avoid secondary complications.

Angle recession

Angle recession can develop from an eye injury or bruising of the eye, caused by getting punched, elbowed, or hit with a ball. The trauma damages the fluid drainage system of the eye, which causes it to back up, increasing the pressure in the eye. In 20% of people with angle recession, this pressure can become so severe that it damages the optic nerve, and causes glaucoma (known as “angle-recession glaucoma”).

You may not notice any symptoms at first, and it may take years before you experience any signs of vision loss. Therefore, it’s critical to visit the eye doctor as soon as possible for a complete eye exam and make sure that you follow-up with routine screenings.

Retinal tear or detachment

Retinal detachment is a condition in which the retina gets lifted or pulled away from its normal position at the back of the eye. If not treated immediately, retinal detachment can develop permanent vision loss.

Symptoms include seeing flashing lights, floaters or little black spots in your vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency and requires an eye doctor’s immediate attention – surgical intervention may be necessary.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

This happens when a blood vessel breaks on the white part of the eye. In addition to a sport-related injury, it can be induced by rubbing the eye, heavy lifting, sneezing or coughing. For those with subconjunctival hemorrhage, the eye appears intensely red – though this minor condition will often clear up within a couple weeks on its own without treatment.

Orbital Fracture

This occurs when one or more of the bones around the eyeball break, often caused by a hard blow to the face – such as by a baseball or a fist. This is a major injury and should be assessed by an eye doctor, like Dr. Michael Rosenblatt, along with X-Rays or CT scan imaging to help confirm the diagnosis.

Black Eye or Periorbital Hematoma

A “shiner” can occur when a blunt object such as a fist or ball strikes the eye-area of the face and causes bruising. Typically, this kind of injury affects the face more than the eye. Blurry vision may be a temporary symptom, but it’s a good idea to get a black eye checked out by an optometrist in any case, because sometimes there is accompanying damage to the eye which could impact vision.

How Does One Prevent Sports-Related Eye Injuries?

One of the most important things one can do in order to prevent eye injuries is to wear protective eyewear. In fact, wearing eye protection should be part of any athlete’s routine, and should be prioritized just like wearing shin guards or a helmet.

Below are a few tips to prevent sports-related eye injuries:

  • Wear safety goggles (with polycarbonate lenses) for racquet sports or basketball. For the best possible protection, the eye guard or sports protective eyewear should be labeled “ASTM F803 approved” – which means it is performance tested.
  • Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for baseball.
  • If you wear prescription eyewear, speak with Dr. Michael Rosenblatt about fitting you for prescription protective eyewear.
  • Sports eye protection should be comfortably padded along the brow and bridge of the nose, to prevent the eye guards from cutting into the skin.
  • Try on protective eyewear to assess whether it’s the right fit and size for you and adjust the straps as needed. For athletic children who are still growing, make sure that last-year’s pair still fits before the new sports season begins. Consult Dr. Michael Rosenblatt to determine whether the comfort and safety levels are adequate.
  • Keep in mind that regular glasses don’t provide nearly enough eye protection when playing sports.

For athletes, whether amateur or pro, there is so much more at stake than just losing the game. Fortunately, by wearing high-quality protective eyewear, you can prevent 90% of all sports-related eye injuries.

Speak with Dr. Michael Rosenblatt at Washington Eye Doctors about getting the right sports-related protective eyewear to ensure healthy eyes and clear vision. Our eye care clinic serves patients from Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas.

At Washington Eye Doctors, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you build up healthy sports vision. Call us today: 202-335-5032 or book an appointment online to see one of our Washington, D.C. eye doctors.

Want to Learn More? Read on!

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Michael Rosenblatt

Q: What is Sports Vision?

  • A: Sports vision is a specific discipline of optometric practice focused on the evaluation, remediation, and enhancement of the visual performance of athletes.

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