Is it safe to clean and store my contact lenses in water?

It may be more convenient, practical or the apparent last resort if you find yourself short of contact lens solution, but placing your delicate contact lenses in water is absolutely to be avoided.

This applies to all varieties including ordinary tap water, distilled water and even bottled spring water.

Why should I not store my contact lenses in water?

While the water that comes from your tap in the kitchen is perfectly find to drink without concern, the truth is that even water that has been purified may contain bacteria. When that bacteria comes into prolonged contact with your eyes, it could cause an unpleasant and potentially serious infection.

Water is not an effective disinfectant and, when left standing for any period of time, may become contaminated with an array of harmful bacteria or fungi. Placing contact lenses that have been stored in water on the sensitive surface of the human eye can cause the transmission of these harmful microorganisms which will rapidly multiply and create a nasty infection which, at the very least, will be painful and require specialist medical treatment to resolve.

Why is distilled or spring water not suitable?

A bottle of your favourite Highland Spring Water may be extremely pure, but this doesn’t make it suitable for storing contact lenses. Not only can spring and distilled water acquire harmful microorganisms if left standing for any length of time, but it is also radically different from the salty tears which keep your eyes moist. Your contact lenses may alter in shape making them uncomfortable to wear and they may stick to your eyes when you insert them which is most likely to cause pain and blurred vision.

How should I store my contact lenses?

A professional contact lens solution is the only liquid in which you should store your contact lenses. The ingredients of these solutions are designed to keep your lenses sterile, correctly shaped and properly hydrated so that you can continue to use them without fear of infections, discomfort or blurred vision.

The British Contact Lens Association has even produced and distributed warning labels to its members to display reminders to contact lens users not to allow water to come into contact with their lenses.

If keeping lenses in a contact lens solution proves to be difficult, for example when you are away from home, then keeping several pairs of disposable lenses with you can be an efficient and sensible approach. Removing the lenses when you need to, such as before going to bed or after swimming, means that you can dispose of these without the need for sterilising in a solution. A new pair of lenses can be inserted as and when desired.

Is swimming with contact lenses dangerous?

Swimming

Swimming in treated or untreated water, relaxing in a Jacuzzi or engaging in a variety of water sports are popular pastimes for many but you should exercise caution when wearing contact lenses.

Water - even if chlorinated at a public pool - may contain harmful bacteria that may come into contact with your eyes or even become lodged behind your lenses against the surface of your eye. These microorganisms can cause potentially serious eye infections.

Swimming with good quality goggles can be a valuable way to help to prevent your contact lenses from coming into contact with water. Always ensure that your goggles are adjusted to ensure a watertight fit.

If your eyes do become splashed with water while swimming, bathing or participating in water sports, you should never assume that your contact lenses will provide an effective barrier and protect your eyes. Remove your lenses at the earliest opportunity and leave them immersed in a contact lens solution to enable any microorganisms to be killed off. You can always rely upon disposable lenses in the interim as an alternative.