Why Lakes & Rivers Pose Risks To Your Eyes If You Wear Contacts

It’s summertime in East Tennessee, which has many residents and visitors heading to lakes and rivers to cool off, and there are certainly plenty to choose from. In fact, East Tennessee has been called the Great Lakes of the South, with seven large lakes and many rivers enhancing our region.

Water covers more than 220,000 acres of East Tennessee. From Chattanooga to Tri-Cities, TVA’s system of lakes and rivers offer more than 4,500 miles of shoreline and unlimited recreational opportunities, making East Tennessee a popular destination for many water sport enthusiasts.

For those who enjoy water sports and who also wear contact lenses, contacts provide a great opportunity to see clearly without the hassle of finding glasses that are actually suitable for activities on the water.

However, it’s important to keep in mind when we’re near lake or river water—plus pools and hot tubs—that there are microorganisms in these bodies of water that can cause serious problems for contact lens wearers.

While these microorganisms don’t usually cause problems for our eyes, the warm, wet environment underneath a contact lens is conducive to rapid growth of colonies of microorganisms, which can cause serious infection. The infection can develop into a corneal ulcer, which causes vision loss and possibly permanent blindness.

To avoid eye infections, corneal ulcers, and vision loss, it’s important to stay vigilant about cleaning and caring for your contact lenses, particularly if you’re around bodies of water when engaging in any water sports like swimming, boating, rafting, tubing, surfing, paddling, or skiing.

Dr. Kevin Gallaher says that another rule of thumb that applies to any situation—whether you’re around lakes, rivers, pools, and hottubs or not—is to take your contacts out immediately if you ever notice that your eyes feel different, uncomfortable, or “funny.” If by the next morning your eyes feel 100% fine, then you don’t need to worry but you should still wait another day before wearing your contacts again.

If you experienced discomfort and took your contacts out but your eyes don’t feel back to normal by the next morning, then you need to come in for an exam. An optometrist or ophthalmologist will be able to examine your eyes with a microscope to see if there’s a problem that needs attention. Waiting to get examined or treated could result in losing sight in the infected eye.

So, enjoy being on the water this summer, but be extra careful about keeping your contacts clean and your eyes healthy. If you have any signs of discomfort and you’ve been in or around lakes, rivers, pools, and hottubs, come in for an evaluation with one of our eye specialists at East Tennessee Eye Surgeons.

East Tennessee Eye Surgeons specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of both common and more complex eye diseases like corneal ulcers, cataracts, and glaucoma. With two locations at 7800 Conner Road in Powell and 744 Middle Creek Road, Suite 200 in Sevierville, East Tennessee Eye Surgeons delivers the highest quality eye care in an exceptional setting. Visit our website to learn more about us, or call us at 865-546-1464 (Powell) or 865-908-7008 (Sevierville).