By Michael Hutton
Swimming in contact lenses is recognised as being a potential risk in terms of leading to bacterial infections of the eyes even when wearing protective goggles. Yet many short-sighted British triathletes continue to wear their contacts during the swimming leg of the event because they need to be focusing clearly when they move into the subsequent cycling and running legs and they do not want to lose time by having to insert lenses as they exit the water. Most open water locations will carry bacteria which can get trapped between conventional contact lenses and the surface of the eyes thus creating the perfect environment for infections to develop. And even wearing the best goggles cannot guarantee that no water ingress will occur.
As the triathlon season gets into full swing, the first race of the UK professional circuit took place last weekend with the GE Blenheim Triathlon marking the first event of the 2012 British Triathlon Super Series. The GE Blenheim event is the UK's second largest triathlon with over 5,000 competitors and many of those competing were taking the risk of swimming in contact lenses . But it proved to be a doubly successful event for leading triathletes Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee who demonstrated their Olympic credentials with a dead heat first place in a fast time over a demanding course. The Brownlee brothers are strong podium contenders in the summer with a very good chance that one of them can be the gold medal winner of the Olympic triathlon event.
For short-sighted triathletes or for those who focus solely on swimming, there are alternatives to swimming in contact lenses . Laser surgery is an established treatment popular amongst professional sports participants but one which is relatively high cost and which does carry some associated risks. A new alternative is overnight orthokeratology (or ortho-k for short) which involves wearing custom-designed lenses only while sleeping. The lenses gently flatten the surface of the eyes during sleep to ensure light focuses directly on the retina rather than in front of it and after removing the lenses each morning, the correction effect lasts for over 24 hours so providing perfect natural vision all day long until the lenses are reinserted at night.
Check if you are suitable for overnight ortho-k corrective contact lenses for swimming.