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Is it OK to Shower with Contacts?

Contact lenses are thin, clear discs that are placed onto the outer layer of your eye (cornea).

Like eyeglasses, contact lenses work to correct your vision. The National Eye Institute estimates that 45 million Americans wear contact lenses.

When you wear contacts, there are some important things to know — like always keeping them away from water. This means that you can’t wear them in the shower.


Continue reading below as we discuss why it’s not okay to wear your contacts in the shower, as well as other best practices to follow.

Here’s why you shouldn’t shower (or swim) while wearing contact lenses

People that wear contacts are at a higher risk of keratitis, a condition where your cornea becomes inflamed. If keratitis isn’t treated promptly, vision loss can occur.

Microbial keratitis is a specific type of keratitis where germs enter the cornea and cause an eye infection.

The germs that can cause these infections are found in various water sources — including the tap water that you shower and bathe in.

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Exposing your contacts to water can cause them to warp or stick to your eye. This can potentially lead to scratches in your cornea (corneal abrasion).

These scratches can sometimes lead to a non-infectious form of keratitis. However, they can also allow germs that are present in non-sterile water to enter the cornea and establish an infection.

What types of germs cause microbial keratitis?

A variety of germs can cause microbial keratitis. One to be particularly aware of in relation to water is a type of parasitic keratitis that’s caused by Acanthamoeba.

Acanthamoeba is a type of amoeba that can be found in a variety of water sources. This includes (but isn’t limited to) tap water, well water, and lake water.

Acanthamoeba keratitis can be very serious, potentially leading to vision loss or the need for a corneal transplant.

It can also be hard to treat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, treatment for this type of keratitis can last a year or longer.

Other types of germs that may cause microbial keratitis and can potentially be found in some water sources include:

  • Bacteria. Bacterial keratitis can be caused by several types of bacteria, including PseudomonasStaphylococcus, and Streptococcus species.
  • Viruses. Viruses that can cause keratitis include herpes simplex virus (HSV), varicella zoster virus (VZV), and adenovirus.
  • Fungi. Fungal keratitis can be caused by infection by AspergillusFusarium, and Candida species.

Fast facts about contact lenses and water

Let’s look at what recent research says about contacts and water exposure:

  • A small 2020 case-control studyTrusted Source found that showering with contacts was the greatest hygiene-related risk factor for developing microbial keratitis.
  • A 2017 reportTrusted Source from a research group based at the CDC looked at different risk behaviors of contact lens wearers in different age groups. Swimming in contacts was reported with a similar prevalence across all age groups.
  • A survey study from 2017Trusted Source also explored risk behaviors in contact lens wearers. Of the 1,141 adults surveyed, it was found that most of the respondents regularly exposed their contacts to water in some way.