Can You Snorkel With Contact Lenses: Safety Tips

Snorkeling is a popular water activity that allows individuals to explore the underwater world while remaining close to the surface. One common concern among snorkelers who wear corrective contact lenses is whether they can safely snorkel with their contact lenses. Let’s take a look

Can You Snorkel With Contacts: Soft Contact Lenses

For patients who wear soft contact lenses, you can snorkel with contact lenses with some precautions in place. It is important to follow these guidelines carefully as there are risks to swimming with contact lenses.

The first precaution is to make sure that your snorkel gear is tight around your face. You do not want any water to enter into your mask. This is both for the purposes of ensuring you can breath correctly but also because exposure of your soft contacts to salt water can put you at risk for serious eye infections. A full face snorkel mask should be properly fitted to your face. If you are someone who likes to snorkel frequently then prescription dive masks may be work investing in. 

What Happens If Water Enters Your Snorkeling Mask?

If water enters the snorkeling mask during your excursion, this can be a frustrating experience. Not only could you experience vision problems from the water which could cause distortion, but it also can irritate your eyes. In this case the best option is to stop using that pair of soft lenses once you are done with your snorkeling experience. 

Should You Throw Away The Soft Contacts After Snorkeling?

If ocean water or really any water has made contact with your soft removable lenses, then you should stop wearing them. However, you may want to keep them in a case for a week or two. This is because if you do end up developing an eye infection, the eye doctor may be able to culture the old contact lenses. A culture of the old contact lenses can help to determine which harmful bacteria is causing your eye infection. This can help the eye doctor or ophthalmologist to make the best choice when it comes to picking an antibiotic to help heal your infection.

Because of the risk of eye infections, especially very harmful eye infections, is associated with swimming, it is best to avoid contact all together. This means making sure that your mask is well fit so the water doesn’t touch the soft lens. A good mask option may even be a full-face snorkel mask.

What Are The Best Options For Snorkeling?

‚ÄčThe ideal situation is for lens wearers to have snorkeling gear that has prescription goggles. However, for many people who are snorkeling on vacation or just once in a while, this is not a practical solution. The next best option is to avoid contact with the water by have a mask with a good seal around the eyes. If water gets in, even with the right mask, you should stop wearing those contacts and switch into a new pair of soft contact lenses. 

Can You Snorkel With Contacts: Hard Contact Lenses

While snorkeling with contacts is possible, it is not without certain health risks. One main concern is the potential for eye infections. When wearing contact lenses in open water environments, there is an increased risk of exposure to harmful microorganisms. 

The health risk is higher with hard contact lenses than it is with soft contact lenses. This is because if the contact lens dislodges or becomes damaged, it can cause discomfort or even cause a corneal abrasion. 

For this reason, it is a much better option to use well fitting goggles or even prescription goggles. Proper-fitting goggles will prevent water from making contact with the hard contact lenses. 

Risks Of Snorkeling With Contacts

The main reason doctors want you to take the right precautions when snorkeling with contacts is due to the risk of eye irritation and eye infections. If there is not a tight seal and water makes its way to the lens, you risk getting a serious infection.

One of the most serious eye infections is caused by a bacteria called acanthamoeba keratitis. This infection is caused by a microscopic amoeba called Acanthamoeba, which is commonly found in water sources around the world.

Contact lens users, especially those who improperly handle, disinfect, or store their lenses, are at higher risk. Using tap water to clean contact lenses or swimming in contaminated water while wearing contact lenses can increase the risk. 

Best Contact Lenses For Snorkeling

The best contact lens for snorkeling is a daily disposable soft contact lens. These single use lenses are a convenient option for snorkelers, as they are designed to be worn only once and are replaced each day. This eliminates the need for a cleaning routine while on vacation, and greatly reduces the risk of infection caused by bacteria buildup in the lenses. These lenses are also less likely to be dislodged during snorkeling compared to other types of lenses.

Tips For Protecting Your Eyes When Snorkeling

When snorkeling with contact lenses, it is crucial to wear goggles or a high-quality mask that provides a watertight seal around your eyes. This will prevent water from entering and coming into contact with your lenses, reducing the risk of irritation or infection. Additionally, wearing goggles can help protect your eyes from exposure to saltwater, chlorine, or harmful microorganisms present in the water.

Choose a high-quality snorkeling mask or goggles: Look for a mask with a comfortable and secure fit, as well as a good seal around the eyes. A variety of options are available, including prescription masks for those with vision impairments.

Test the seal of your mask or goggles before entering the water: To ensure a watertight fit, press the mask or goggles against your face and breathe in through your nose. If it stays in place without the need for you to hold it, the seal is good.

Avoid touching your eyes while snorkeling: Resist the urge to rub or touch your eyes while in the water, as doing so may dislodge or damage the contact lens, and increase the risk of irritation or infection.

Remove soft contact lenses as soon as you finish snorkeling. Carry a couple spare pairs with you  as well as a pair of glasses so that you can put those on immediately after. Even if only a drop of water has gotten to your lens, it is important to remove them as the first thing you do after your snorkel experience.

Alternatives To Contact Lenses

Snorkeling with contact lenses might not be the ideal solution for everyone. There are alternatives available that can provide clear underwater vision without the risks associated with wearing contact lenses. In this section, we will explore two alternatives: prescription masks and LASIK eye surgery.

Prescription Masks

A  prescription mask is specially designed for snorkeling or diving mask. These masks can be customized to accommodate an individual’s specific visual needs, allowing for clear vision underwater without the need for contact lenses. This can provide a safer and more comfortable option while snorkeling, as it eliminates the risk of losing contact lenses or experiencing discomfort due to water exposure.

This is a more reasonable option for people who are engaging in water activities frequently. However, if your prescription as been stable for several years, it may be worth investing in a pair that you can use whenever you go snorkeling or diving. 

LASIK Eye Surgery, PRK, Or SMILE Eye Surgery

Another alternative for individuals who wish to snorkel without contact lenses is to consider undergoing laser vision correction. Some of the vision correction surgeries include LASIK, PRK and SMILE eye surgery. These procedures use a laser to reshape the cornea. This will correct vision issues, and reduce or eliminate the need for corrective lenses. 

The benefits of having vision correction eye surgery include:

  • Permanent solution: LASIK can provide long-term correction of vision issues, without the need for contact lenses or glasses.
  • Quick recovery: Most individuals can return to normal activities, including snorkeling, within a few weeks following LASIK surgery. Recovery times are longer for PRK.
  • Cost-effective: Although the initial cost of LASIK surgery can be high, it may prove to be a more cost-effective solution in the long run. Once you have vision correction surgery, you will not need to buy contact lenses. 

While not everyone is a good candidate for laser vision correction surgery, it is an option worth considering for those who are interested in a long-lasting solution that allows them to snorkel without the hassle of contact lenses. Plus you have the added benefit of having perfect eyesight all the time even when you are not snorkeling. As always, consult with an eye care professional to discuss the best solution for your specific visual needs and lifestyle.

Can You Snorkel With Contacts? Short Answer

The short answer is, yes you can, but you need to make sure that the water does not make contact with the contact lens. Snorkeling is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the ocean, but for contact lens wearers, appropriate precautions should be taken. Make sure your snorkel mask fits tightly to keep water out. This helps avoid eye infections from the water. If water gets in your mask, remove your soft contacts after snorkeling and do not use these lenses again. One devastating eye infection that can result from water is a germ called Acanthamoeba keratitis. This can cause permanent vision loss. If you are an avid swimmer or someone who enjoys snorkeling frequently, consider laser vision correction surgery like LASIK or alternatives to LASIK.

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