It is often advised not to expose contact lenses to water.  This is true for water sports but also everyday contact with water such as showering, bathing, using a hot tub and swimming.  If you are a contact lens wearer, then it is important that you have the facts and knowledge surrounding water and wearing contact lenses so you can understand why this advice is given.


Acanthamoeba is a microorganism that can be found in domestic tap water and is normally harmless to humans.  If this attaches to your contact lenses and sits on the surface of the eye it can however lead to a serious eye condition called microbial keratitis.  This is where the cornea (the front surface of the eye) gets infected and inflamed. Key symptoms are:

  • Pain (may be severe)
  • Redness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Vision loss
  • Watering of the eye

Corneal infections (known as keratitis) require urgent treatment and can result in a time-consuming healing process.  In some cases, residual scarring of the cornea can affect vision and some people may need a corneal transplant. 

Thankfully, Acanthamoeba keratitis (along with other corneal infections) is a very rare condition. It is caused by a range of things such as inadequate disinfection of contact lenses, using non-sterile solutions, use of tap water to clean the contact lens case or exposure of contact lenses to shower, pool or spa water. 

Your risk of such infections is significantly reduced if you take care of your lenses, follow a good hygiene routine and avoid water being in contact with your contact lenses and case. 

Following these tips can help to keep your eyes heathy with your contact lenses where water is concerned;

  • Remove contact lenses before engaging with any activity involving water.
  • If lenses unexpectedly come into contact with water, such as from an unplanned swim, discard of them afterwards and replace with a fresh pair. 
  • Ensure you wash and dry your hands properly prior to handling your lenses.
  • Never use tap water to rinse your contact lenses or contact lens case.  Always use the disinfecting solution advised by your eyecare professional.  Also remember to change your case regularly in line with instructions accompanying your disinfecting solutions.  
  • If wearing reusable lenses ensure you clean them properly in accordance to the manufacturer’s instructions and always store your lenses in fresh solution. 

Always seek professional advice from your eyecare professional first about wearing contact lenses during any activities that involve water as they will be able to give you the appropriate advice on the potential risks involved, how you can help minimise them and may be able to offer other options such as prescription goggles.