Is it acceptable to swim or shower wearing contact lenses?

Is it appropriate to rinse gas permeable or scleral contact lenses with water?

What does the literature say?

A study by Zimmerman, et al. examined behaviors and knowledge related to water exposure in soft contact lens and gas permeable lens wearers.¹ The Contact Lens Risk Survey and health behavior questions were completed online by soft (1056) and gas permeable (85) contact lens wearers from 20 to 76 years of age. The participants were asked questions about exposing contact lenses to water and comprehension of associated risks with these behaviors.

This study concluded that gas permeable contact lens wearers were more likely than soft contact lens wearers to rinse or store their lenses in water. In the soft contact lens group, men were more likely to store or rinse their contact lenses in water compared to women. More soft contact lens wearers (86%) shower with contact lenses compared to gas permeable contact lens wearers (67%) (P < 0.0001). Swimming was more common in soft contact wearers (62%) compared to gas permeable lens wearers (48%) (P = 0.027). Of interest, the perception that distilled water was safer than tap water for storing or rinsing lenses was true for both soft and gas permeable lens wearers.

Multiple studies have reported that Acanthamoeba keratitis, a severe corneal infection, may occur as a serious outcome of improper contact lens use.² This study demonstrated that most contact lens wearers, both soft and gas permeable, regularly expose their lenses to water and are unaware of these risky behaviors. It is critical to educate contact lens wearers on proper contact lens hygiene and the dangers of tap water exposure.

Tips for safe contact lens wear²,³
• Wash and dry hands prior to handling contact lenses
• Do not use tap water to disinfect contact lenses
• Do not rinse contact lens cases in tap water
• Caution when swimming with contact lenses
• Caution when showering with contact lenses
• Avoid rubbing eyes when applying contact lenses
• Replace contact lens solution daily (do not top off lens solution)

¹Zimmerman AB, Richdale K, Mitchell GL, et al. Water Exposure is a Common Risk Behavior Among Soft and Gas-Permeable Contact Lens Wearers. Cornea. 2017 Aug;36(8):995-1001. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0000000000001204.

²Taher EE, Meabed EMH, Abdallah, et al. Acanthamoeba keratitis in noncompliant soft contact lenses users: Genotyping and risk factors, a study from Cairo, Egypt. J Infect Public Health. 2017 Sep 28. pii: S1876-0341(17)30247-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jiph.2017.09.013. [Epub ahead of print]

³ Accessed January 2018.