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Can you shower with contact lenses?

A daily shower is a must for many of us, be it freshening up on a morning or a relaxing splash after a hard day’s work. Wearers often ask us ‘can you shower with contact lenses?’ and are often surprised to learn it’s rarely a good idea.

The non-sterilised water that pours from a shower can easily come into contact with lenses in the eyes. Bacteria and parasites can be present in household tap water, and though the risk is relatively low, this can lead to some nasty problems.

The trouble is, of course, if you wear contact lenses to correct relatively significant short or long-sightedness as per your eye test prescription, taking them out before a shower may mean grasping around to find the soap, shower gel and shampoo. So, are there circumstances in which it might be ok to leave contact lenses in before stepping under the shower?

Can you wear contact lenses while showering?

When can you shower with contact lenses?

The usual advice is that, if you feel you must wear your contact lenses while in the shower, keep your eyes shut as much as possible. As well as this, you should limit your showering time to just a couple of minutes. However, it is never possible to entirely prevent water from entering the eyes. And that can lead to all sorts of infections.

The big risk comes from a parasite by the name of <i>Acanthamoeba polyphaga</i>. A handful of horror stories make the press every year from people whose eyes have come into contact with this. It causes the cornea to become infected, leading to a condition called acanthamoeba keratitis. This often leads to scarring and impaired, or even a loss, of vision.

The risk and implications of acanthamoeba keratitis are heightened for wearers of contact lenses. That is because lenses can retain microbes and effectively trap them against the eye. That can be even worse if lenses that are less than completely cleansed and disinfected cause abrasions on the cornea, into which bugs can pass deeper into the eye.

There are other problems from showering with contacts too

If the chances of developing a really horrible eye infection aren’t bad enough, there are other issues that lead to discomfort and painful eyes from wearing contact lenses in the shower.

Taking a hot shower and filling the bathroom with steam will dry your eyes out. This increases discomfort and every contact wearer’s most disliked scenario where a lens becomes ‘lost’ somewhere in the eye, which can take some time (and pain) to extract.

The other most painful scenario when showering while wearing contact lenses is the chance of getting soap in the eyes. This can be particularly unpleasant for those with contacts as the product will cling to the lenses themselves, increasing discomfort and meaning you will have to take them out, clean them thoroughly and perhaps soak them overnight to ensure any residue is completely removed.

Can you shower with contact lenses? The bottom line

Even those who opt for continuous-wear contact lenses are advised to remove them while taking a shower. The British Contact Lens Association estimate that four in 10,000 wearers will develop an eye infection every year, with six in 100,000 suffering vision loss.

However, with over four million contact lens users in the UK, that’s still a significant number of people suffering from a serious problem. While the risk of something untoward developing from taking a shower while wearing lenses is small, the consequences can be severe.

If you’re new to contact lenses and would like to take a trial wearing them to see if they’re a good option for you, or if you simply want more advice on how to wear contact lenses safely, then give our optical experts a call or get in touch via the website. Alternatively, drop into our Narberth opticians or Cardigan opticians.

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