Columns/Opinion, Dr. Trembush and Dr. Stout

Advice for warm-weather contact lenses

Q: I am thinking about getting some contact lenses for warm weather, but wondering about swimming and sports. Any advice on what to do or not do?

A: Every spring many people think about needing their glasses less for outdoor activities. You raise some good points, in that contact lenses are ideal for many activities, but not so much for others.

Specifically, you ask about swimming in contact lenses. This is generally a bad idea for a couple reasons: You may lose your lenses swimming with your eyes open (unless you wear well fitting swim goggles), and if you wear those same lenses after saturating them in “swim water” you may pick up an eye infection. I said “swim water” because all water you swim in is filled with bacteria and sometimes fungal organisms. As you would expect, swimming in lakes, rivers and the ocean present the highest risk of infection. Surprisingly, even the best maintained swimming pool contains an amazingly high number of pathogens for the eye. So what to do?

If you choose to swim in contacts, be certain you are using “daily disposables.” These are the fastest growing type of lenses today, and are used for a single day only. Our patients generally love having a fresh, sterile, perfect pair of lenses to pop on each day. And our patients who only want contacts occasionally, find the convenience and comfort unbeatable. The point is this: If you swim in contacts, be sure you discard the lenses after swimming. Never ever reuse that same pair of lenses!

Contact lenses are ideal for virtually all other sports. They provide better vision in all directions (up, down, left and right) than glasses. They generally do stay in place and centered on your eyes. The old image of losing a contact lens and groping around on the basketball floor trying to find it is not a real risk today. Not impossible to have a lens pop out, but very, very unlikely when your lenses are professionally prescribed to truly match your eye shape and anatomy.

You actually also have a wider field of view with contacts than with glasses. This enhanced peripheral, or side, vision is a real plus in many sports. And of course, while you have your contacts on, you can wear non-prescription sunglasses. And you should, if you are playing outdoors. Just as the sun’s radiation damages our skin, it also damages the inside of our eyes and can cause skin cancers of your eyelids. Be sure to wear high quality, full spectrum UV blocking, polarized lenses all the time you are outside. Prevention is the best way to reduce your risk of retinal damage later in life.

So have a great summer, and talk to your eye doctor about daily disposables! They are available now in almost all vision prescriptions and really easy to use. Have fun and be safe.

DR. THOMAS STOUT, OD, FAAO is an eye physician in private practice at Morgantown Eye Associates. Info: