Tap Water and Lenses Don't Mix
October 16, 2018
– Dr. Christine Sindt
Whether you wear custom contact lenses or disposables, one of the cardinal rules of contact lens care is “no tap water!” Major safety organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control, the FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Optometric Association agree that contact lenses and tap water don’t mix.
Why? Even if your tap water is purified, it doesn’t have the disinfectant properties of contact lens cleaning solution and may allow bacteria and other microorganisms to grow on your contact lenses.
Why is this a problem? Tap water, well water, lake water and pool or hot tub water can contain a microorganism called Acanthamoeba. This germ can cause a very severe type of eye infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis, which can be very painful and difficult to treat, sometimes requiring a year or more of treatment. Although rare, this infection can result in severe eye damage — a Denver woman lost sight in one eye after contracting the condition while swimming with her contact lenses in and required a corneal transplant.
An estimated 85% of U.S. Acanthamoeba keratitis cases affect contact lens users, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And some reports show that the incidence of the disease is growing - researchers in some areas outside of the U.S. have found that rates of Acanthamoeba keratitis have nearly tripled since 2011.
What to do if you’ve exposed your lenses to tap water? If you have cleaned or rinsed your contact lenses or case with tap water, or worn your contacts in the shower, a pool or a hot tub, and you experience eye pain, redness or blurry vision, you should immediately remove your lenses and contact your eye doctor for advice.
So then, what’s the proper way to clean and care for your contact lenses?
Clean your lenses and contact lens case only with approved cleaning solutions, and store your lenses in a case filled with solution.
Rinse only with solution or sterile saline. Even purified water is a no-no. The worst option is using your mouth to clean your lenses in a pinch. Our mouths are basically a petri dish filled with bacteria!
Don’t reuse solution or saline from day to day.
Carry solution and your contact lens case with you everywhere in case you need a mid-day rinse or cleaning.
Wash your hands with soap and water before touching your lenses.
If you have custom contact lenses coated in Tangible
Hydra-PEG, you should follow these tips and also watch this short video on additional care tips.
It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Keep your lenses away from tap water and you’ll keep your eyes safe from this nasty germ.