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July 18, 2019

Why swimming in your contact lenses is a very, very bad idea

This woman's eye infection will scare some sense into you

Prevention Infection
eye infection swimming contacts Hubble/Unsplash

Contact-free swimming is the safest option.

Contact lenses help the visually challenged stay active. These soft discs that reside on your eyeballs allow people to run, hike and perform a whole slew of other activities without eyeglasses sliding down the nose or bumping around on the face the entire time.

But there’s one summertime activity that does NOT mix with contact lenses: swimming.

A case report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine chronicles the story of a 41-year-old woman in England who nearly lost her vision in one eye after getting an infection from swimming and showering with her contact lenses in.

RELATED READ: What it's like to survive a flesh-eating bacterial infection

The infection is called acanthamoeba keratitis, a rare, but serious eye infection that can result in permanent vision loss or impairment, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionIt is caused by a tiny “free-living ameoba” that infects the cornea.

While the infection is most common in those who wear contacts, anyone can develop the infection, the CDC says.

The woman examined in the case study had experienced symptoms – including occasional pain, blurry vision and light sensitivity – for two months prior to seeking treatment, according to an NBC News report:

To diagnose the infection, doctors take a culture of a corneal scraping. Then, they confirm the diagnosis by putting a dye in the affected eye — if the amoeba is present, the infection will turn from a hazy brown to a bright fluorescent green.

It’s worth noting that this infection is not easy to treat. According to Health Magazine, topical eyedrops must be used every hour for multiple weeks or even months, and in some cases a cornea transplant is necessary to repair the damage from the infection.

The patient in the case study did, reportedly, need to have a transplant and, as Health reports, her vision wasn’t completely restored after the fact.

So, it might just be better to remove your contacts before going for a swim or hitting the showers — even if it means you can’t see all that well.

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