Home Health & Wellness Optometrist Issues Warning to UK’s 3.7 Million Contact Lens Wearers Ahead of Summer Holidays

Optometrist Issues Warning to UK’s 3.7 Million Contact Lens Wearers Ahead of Summer Holidays

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The allure of summer brings with it a host of outdoor activities, from swimming in pools and seas to beach outings and extended periods outdoors.

However, these enjoyable moments can pose significant risks to our eye health if proper precautions are not taken.

Malcolm Maciver, an optometrist at Leightons Opticians, emphasises the importance of being aware of these risks and taking proactive steps to safeguard our vision this summer. 1.92 million UK contact lens wearers need to take these extra precautions when swimming.

With 3.7 million contact lens wearers in the UK and reports from ABTA that 52% of Brits go on holiday, 1.92 million Brits could be at risk of irritating their eyes this summer when swimming on holiday.

“Chlorine and salt water can have a drying effect on the eyes, stripping away the natural tear film that protects our eyes, leading to discomfort and irritation,” explains Maciver.

He advises swimmers to wear waterproof goggles to protect their eyes from the effects of chlorine. “It’s also wise to keep a bottle of eye drops handy to re-moisturise your eyes after swimming.”

“Soft contact lens wearers should take extra precautions when swimming in pools and large bodies of water this Summer,” warns Maciver.

“Wearing contact lenses while swimming can increase the risk of eye infections, as microorganisms in the water can adhere to the lenses, potentially leading to conditions such as Acanthamoeba keratitis, a rare, vision-threatening cornea infection.

“While these types of waterborne infections are rare, it’s best not to wear contact lenses at all when swimming. Prescription swim goggles are a more suitable and preventative option.

Why should you always wear sunglasses at the beach?

The beach often means prolonged exposure to sunlight. UV rays can damage the cornea, lens, and retina and are risk factors for cataracts and other serious eye conditions.

“Always ensure your sunglasses offer 100% UV protection,” Maciver emphasises. “This added protection will help reduce prolonged exposure to UV rays and minimise conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.”

Suncream and sand won’t cause long-term damage but may ruin your day at the beach.

With 271 million recreational visits made to coasts and beaches each year, Maciver cautions beach-goers.

“Getting sand or sun cream in your eyes at the beach is a foreign body-type injury that rarely causes long-term damage. However, it can cause temporary discomfort and, in very rare cases, lead to more serious issues.”

Maciver recommends wearing protective sunglasses to shield the eyes from fine sand particles that can easily get into the eyes and cause scratches on the cornea. “A wraparound style can offer better coverage and protection.”

Additionally, while sunscreen is essential for skin protection, care should be taken to avoid direct contact with the eyes. “Opt for cream-based sunscreens rather than sprays and apply them carefully around the eye area,” Maciver suggests.

Your eyes are most at risk in your backyard

Activities like mowing the lawn or trimming bushes can propel debris and irritants into the air and, in severe cases, cause long-term damage to the eyes.

“It’s essential to wear safety goggles to shield your eyes from high-velocity projectiles that can result from these activities,” advises Maciver.

“Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers can also be harmful if they come into contact with your eyes. When spraying chemicals, always wear protective goggles or a face shield, and ensure you’re upwind to avoid blowback,” Maciver recommends.

5 practical tips to protect eye health this summer 

To ensure eye health is maintained throughout the summer, Maciver recommends the following:

  1. Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection.
  2. Use goggles when swimming in chlorinated pools or salt water.
  3. Apply sun cream carefully, avoiding the eye area.
  4. Drink plenty of water to help maintain sufficient moisture in your eyes and body.
  5. Seek immediate advice from an optometrist if eye discomfort or irritation occurs after exposure to any summer hazards.

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