BMN Blog

MAY 30
Safe Summer Contact Lens Use

Summer is quickly approaching, a season that usually comes with warmer weather and, for many of us, vacation time. Vacations come in a variety of forms. You may prefer a staycation where you simply stay at home and avoid emails for a week. You may favor an once-in-a-lifetime trip to a place like Iceland, or you might head to the southern Alabama coast to catch some sun at the beach. While the travel possibilities are nearly endless, a contact lens wearer needs to be prepared for every situation.  


Everyday safe contact lens use


Healthy contact lens use requires a complex care regimen, even while staying within the confines of one’s home.1, 2 Everyday soft contact lens use typically requires the wearer to perform a complex series of steps, which includes following a specified wear schedule (daily, biweekly, or monthly disposal) and diligently maintaining good hand hygiene while inserting and removing their contact lenses.1, 2 Daily wear contact lens users must also follow a multi-step cleaning regimen.1, 2 While the vast majority of contact lens wearers believe that they are compliant,2, 3 up to 90 percent of patients fail to accurately complete at least one contact lens care recommendation.1-3 The most commonly encountered areas of noncompliance include wearing contact lenses for more days than recommended, unauthorized overnight contact lens use, exposing contact lenses to tap water, and failing to fully follow contact lens cleaning instructions.1, 2


Safe contact lens use while traveling


Contact lens wearers who travel, especially those who travel abroad to a less developed country, must consider a number of other issues.4 Specially, contact lens wearers will first need to remember to bring all of their contact lens care devices; packing travel-size care systems and leak-proof contact lens cases may also be necessary to save space and avoid contamination.4 Travelers should also pack a spare pair of contact lenses and spectacles in case an unexpected incident happens while on the road.4 If traveling to an underdeveloped country or to a location with an extreme climate, water and air conditions should be investigated before departure, and contact lens wearers should determine if a clean source of water is available before departing.4, 5 If appropriate supplies are unavailable or if the conditions are too extreme, patients should avoid contact lens use while on these excursions in order to avoid eye irritation and a potential eye infection.6, 7


Safe contact lens use while swimming


If a contact lens wearers plans to go swimming while on holiday, be it in the ocean, a pool, or at a water park,6, 8 the wearer should follow the U. S. Food and Drug Administration recommendation to remove contact lenses before swimming in order to avoid an increased risk of developing a microbial keratitis.9, 10 While following this recommendation is the safest option, many contact lens wearers will not comply with this advice because they find it inconvenient or because they may be unable to see well without contact lenses (e.g., keratoconic patients); therefore, swimmers should be prescribed daily disposable contact lenses when possible, so they can discard their contaminated contact lenses directly after swimming.8 Contact lens-wearing swimmers should also be educated to apply swimming goggles before entering the water.8


Each summer brings with it exciting new opportunities. Contact lenses give patients with refractive errors the ability to more easily embark on these opportunities by freeing them from glasses while at the same time allowing them to achieve better vision and self-esteem.11, 12 When used properly, contact lenses are safe, though patients frequently become lax in their care habits, and it is our job to continually remind our patients about contact lens safely, so wearers can maintain healthy eyes for a lifetime.13, 14


Dr. Andrew D. Pucker is an assistant professor at the UAB School of Optometry, which operates UAB Eye Care. Learn more about UAB Eye Care by visiting or calling 205-975-2020.




  1. Ramamoorthy P, Nichols JJ. Compliance factors associated with contact lens-related dry eye. Eye Contact Lens 2014;40:17-22.
  2. Robertson DM, Cavanagh HD. Non-compliance with contact lens wear and care practices: a comparative analysis. Optom Vis Sci 2011;88:1402-8.
  3. Bui TH, Cavanagh HD, Robertson DM. Patient compliance during contact lens wear: perceptions, awareness, and behavior. Eye Contact Lens 2010;36:334-9.
  4. Leggat PA, Speare R, Moon ME. Sore eyes and travelers. J Travel Med 1999;6:45-7.
  5. Bauer IL. Contact lens wearers' experiences while trekking in the Khumbu region/Nepal: a cross-sectional survey. Travel Med Infect Dis 2015;13:178-84.
  6. Choo J, Vuu K, Bergenske P, Burnham K, Smythe J, Caroline P. Bacterial populations on silicone hydrogel and hydrogel contact lenses after swimming in a chlorinated pool. Optom Vis Sci 2005;82:134-7.
  7. Vesaluoma M, Kalso S, Jokipii L, Warhurst D, Ponka A, Tervo T. Microbiological quality in Finnish public swimming pools and whirlpools with special reference to free living amoebae: a risk factor for contact lens wearers? Br J Ophthalmol 1995;79:178-81.
  8. Wu YT, Tran J, Truong M, Harmis N, Zhu H, Stapleton F. Do swimming goggles limit microbial contamination of contact lenses? Optom Vis Sci 2011;88:456-60.
  9. Radford CF, Minassian DC, Dart JK. Acanthamoeba keratitis in England and Wales: incidence, outcome, and risk factors. Br J Ophthalmol 2002;86:536-42.
  10. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Focusing on Contact Lens Safety: 2016. Available at: Updates/ucm048893.htm. Accessed on 05/25/2016.
  11. Walline JJ, Gaume A, Jones LA, Rah MJ, Manny RE, Berntsen DA, Chitkara M, Kim A, Quinn N. Benefits of contact lens wear for children and teens. Eye Contact Lens 2007;33:317-21.
  12. Walline JJ, Jones LA, Sinnott L, Chitkara M, Coffey B, Jackson JM, Manny RE, Rah MJ, Prinstein MJ, Group AS. Randomized trial of the effect of contact lens wear on self-perception in children. Optom Vis Sci 2009;86:222-32.
  13. Walline JJ, Lorenz KO, Nichols JJ. Long-term contact lens wear of children and teens. Eye Contact Lens 2013;39:283-9.
  14. Sankaridurg P, Lazon de la Jara P, Holden B. The future of silicone hydrogels. Eye Contact Lens 2013;39:125-9.
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