Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Nike says... "Just Do It."
That's often good advice but you just have to remember what "It" is.
If "It" is taking your contacts out before the shower, then follow Nike's command.
If "It" is leaving your contacts in when you shower, then don't listen to Nike.
I'm not usually a "paternalistic" type of Optometrist. I try not to lecture patients and tell them to do this or do that "because I said so". But when it comes to contact lenses, I'm not above using scare tactics. If you are taking risks that could make you go blind, I believe it's important for me to "tell it how it is."
If you're a contact lens wearer, or thinking about wearing them, there are rules to remember that could save you lots of pain, money, time, and eyesight. Who doesn't want that?
When I do contact lens testing and evaluations, one of the most common discussions I have about contact lenses is why you need to remove them before showering, bathing, swimming, and going in pool or hot tub.
WHY DO I NEED TO REMOVE MY CONTACTS BEFORE SHOWERING?
Think of contact lenses as small sponges which are really good at absorbing and soaking up lots of micro organisms (germs).
Some micro organisms live in and around the eyeball in the tears and usually don't pose a risk to your eyes.
But some micro organisms - ones that can blind you - can be found in lakes, oceans, rivers, ponds and even your tap water and cause severe infections in the eyes.
One is an ameba (single cell organism), called Acanthamoeba which can cause a condition in the eye called Acanthamoeba Keratitis.
Keratitis refers to inflammation and infection of the part of the eye called the cornea.
There are many infections that reach your cornea that are easy to treat with medications and then go away completely.
Acanthamoeba is different in that it can be tricky to diagnose and difficult to stop unless caught early. Often times, it is mistaken for a bacteria and treated (unsuccessfully) with antibiotics. Since it's not a bacteria, treatment with antibiotics will not work, and of course, the infection will worsen over that time.
If not caught early enough, the infection gets out of control leaving you with scarring across the cornea (covering up your pupil). And scars unfortunately don't clear up. If you get it and the scars cover your pupil, then you lose your vision permanently until you get a corneal transplant.
So will you go blind if you shower or go in a lake with your contacts on? Not necessarily.
But why take the unnecessary risk? The best way to prevent this kind of nightmare from happening to you is to follow the best practices when using contact lenses:
Take your contacts out before showering.
Use the solution recommended by your eye doctor.
Use new solution each time you store your lenses.
Don't clean or store your contacts in tap water.
Don't use homemade disinfecting solution.
Clean your case and replace it every couple months.
Don't swim, bathe, or go in a hot tub while using them either.
By following these guidelines you should be able to lower your risk of serious eye problems when wearing contact lenses.