If you wear contact lenses to see clearly on land, you’ll also need them for any underwater activities. Can you wear contacts in the ocean? Can you go snorkeling or scuba diving with contacts? Read on to find out.
Can You Snorkel With Contacts?
There’s no such thing as underwater contacts, but you can snorkel while wearing your regular contact lenses. But you also need to wear a snorkel mask to keep water out of your eyes.
Some things to keep in mind while snorkeling:
- Make sure your mask fits. A tight-fitting snorkel mask will help prevent water from getting in your eyes.
- Consider daily contacts. Disposable daily contacts are good for activities in the water, including snorkeling, scuba diving and swimming because you can put in a fresh pair when you’re done.
Can You Scuba Dive With Contacts?
As with snorkeling, you can scuba dive wearing contact lenses as long as your eyes are protected. If you want to wear your contacts while scuba diving, soft lenses are often safer and more comfortable than hard lenses:
- Can cause blurry vision. The eyes absorb nitrogen, and when you descend under water, that nitrogen slowly escapes the eyes. Hard contacts don’t allow gas such as nitrogen to pass through the lens, so tiny bubbles of nitrogen often form between the lenses and your eyes. When you come out of the water and take off your mask, the bubbles can cause blurry vision.
- Can cause dry eye. Hard lenses can make your eyes feel a bit drier than usual. You also may have to blink more than normal for comfort while wearing them.
- Can easily fall out. Hard contacts are usually smaller than soft contact lenses. They’re more likely to fall out when you’re emptying (also called clearing) water out of your mask. Keep your eyes closed when clearing your mask to prevent your contacts from falling out.
- Allow gas and air to escape through the lenses. Tiny bubbles are less likely to form between your eyes and your contacts, so you’re less likely to have blurry vision.
- Keep eyes moist. Soft lenses won’t make your eyes feel dry when you’re wearing them while scuba diving.
- Won’t float away. Soft lenses are larger than hard lenses so there’s less of a chance they’ll come out while you’re clearing water out of your mask.
If you do get water on your contacts, dispose of them when you’re done snorkeling, scuba diving or swimming and put in a fresh pair. If you’re wearing monthly contacts, clean your lenses and your eyes after water activities.
Contacts Aren’t Ideal to Wear Under Water
In general, it’s best not to wear contacts under water. There are many bacteria, viruses and parasites in the ocean, fresh water and swimming pools that can attach themselves to contact lenses and cause an infection. Contact lenses can also absorb harsh chemicals, such as chlorine, that can seriously irritate your eyes.
Whether you’re an experienced scuba diver or a beginner, there are times when water will get in your mask, and you’ll need to empty it out. If you’re wearing contacts, there’s a greater chance they may fall out when you’re clearing your mask. Keep your eyes closed whenever you remove water from your mask to help prevent your contacts from falling out and floating away.
Other Eyewear Options for Water Activities
If you don’t want to wear contact lenses while you’re snorkeling or scuba diving, there are other options:
You can get a dive mask with custom-made lenses for your vision prescription. You can have these lenses put into a mask you already have. You can also buy the mask and the lenses together, and the manufacturer will add your prescription to the lenses.
A mask with custom lenses can be expensive, starting at about $200 for a basic prescription. The cost will go up if you have a strong prescription and/or if you need bifocal lenses.
Off-the-shelf corrective lenses
Most major scuba manufacturers sell masks that already have lenses with vision correction for nearsightedness and farsightedness. These lenses aren’t your actual prescription, but they’re available in a wide range of correction so you’ll probably find one that’s close.
The prices and vision correction vary depending on the manufacturer.
Like off-the-shelf corrective lenses, these stickers are not your individual prescription. They’re designed to magnify your vision. Stick them to the inside of each lens to magnify what you see underwater.
Ortho-k lenses are specially designed and fitted contact lenses that correct your vision by flattening the center of your cornea. They’re usually worn at night. When you remove these lenses in the morning, you’ll have clear vision throughout the day. Ortho-k lenses are mostly prescribed to help people who are nearsighted.
Wearing contact lenses doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy underwater activities. Talk with your eye care professional to find out what option is best for you.