This bubble ring underwater reminds us of a soft contact lens. We want to know more about scuba diving with soft contact lenses.
Scuba diving and soft contact lenses. How safe is it? Photo by Juan Chavez / Unsplash

In my teens, my eyesight was tested and I was found to be short-sighted and needed to wear glasses. This was a catastrophe as it was just not cool. As I got older, I learned how to poke my eye without flinching and transitioned to contact lenses. Much cooler. However, wearing contact lenses came with its own issues.

Sleepovers meant making sure I remembered to take my contact lenses container and solution. Nights out meant I ended up sleeping with my lenses in. This left my eyes dry and red from having them in too long (and probably from a hangover)! And when I started scuba diving I needed to find a way to make sure I had 20/20 vision to see the amazing things underwater. AND also keep my hands and eyes clean when using contact lenses. Along the way I figured some things out so here are my tips for scuba diving with soft contact lenses!

Scuba Diving with Soft Contact Lenses

Firstly, good job with choosing soft contact lenses for your water activities! Soft contact lenses are the better choice for scuba diving. They allow gases to permeate and escape. Whereas hard lenses may cause nitrogen bubbles to get stuck on the lens. The large size of a soft contact lens also helps it remain in place on your eye when coming in contact with water. It is also generally more comfortable to wear.

However, soft contact lenses are designed to absorb moisture. This means that they may absorb salt water when your eye comes in contact with the water. This does mean you need to keep the contact lenses clean and sterile. Which can be a bit difficult if you do not have access to soap for your hands or your contact lenses solution.

Read more about wearing contacts in the ocean.

Bring Spare Contact Lenses

The biggest tip I give to my students for scuba diving with contact lenses is to always bring spare lenses! It doesn’t matter if you are only going for one dive, take a spare pair with you. The worst thing is jumping in for a dive and losing a contact lens before you even descend. And yes, that has happened to me. At a dive site that was 2.5 hours away from land! But luckily, I had a spare pair on the boat. So while my group waited and remained on the surface, I jumped back onto the boat and put in a new lens. I definitely did not want to go on a dive with poor eye-sight and not see the tiny nudibranchs!

Clean your Hands

This is an important tip too. There is no point in bringing a spare pair of contact lenses if you can’t clean your hands. The biggest risk of wearing contact lenses is infection and bacteria entering your eye. This is usually caused by dirty fingers and hands. If you don’t have access to clean water and soap on the boat, then my tip is to bring hand sanitizer on the boat or shore. Rub your hands with some hand sanitizer and then pour some drinking water over your hands to remove any residue alcohol (this could sting your eye!).

Tell Your Buddy about your Contact Lenses

You don’t want your dive buddy to think you are making advances on them underwater when your eye is irritated and you’re constantly blinking and winking in their direction. Unless you want them to think that.

The best way to avoid their confusion while you’re signaling a problem with your eyeball is to let them know in advance that you are wearing contact lenses. In a worst-case, if your contact lenses are irritating you underwater you may need to close your eyes to avoid the stinging pain. Having a buddy who knows what is going on means they can assist you back up to the surface by holding onto your arm and checking on your air and NDLs.

Keep Your Eyes Closed During Mask Skills

If your eyes are easily irritated by saltwater then you should close your eyes when practicing a mask flooding exercise or when clearing your mask. You can also close your eyes when jumping into the water as some water may enter from the force of the water. There have also been very rare cases when a contact lens can slide out of your eye when flushed with water. Closing your eye helps keep it in place.

Eye Drops during the Surface Interval

It’s a good idea to use lubricating eye drops made specifically for contact lenses before and after the dives. This helps rinse off any residue saltwater from your eye. It also stops your eye from getting dry and irritated.

Check out whether snorkeling with contact lenses is a good idea or not.

Other Options to Contact Lenses

Here are some other options if you are worried about scuba diving with soft contact lenses. You can look into purchasing or renting a prescription mask from your dive center. Just be aware that once you are back on the boat you will need to locate your glasses. It’s a good idea to keep them somewhere handy and easily accessible.

You can also look into purchasing stick on corrective lenses for diving masks. These are inexpensive, reusable, and can fit on any dive mask. Some of the lenses are even magnified to help you read your computer and gauges!

Emma was terrified of the ocean but dove into her Open Water 7 years ago and hasn't looked back since! She worked as an underwater videographer for several years and is now a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. She currently runs a dive shop on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand and is the founder of Down To Scuba.

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