Tell me I'm extremely silly.
February 5, 2010 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I rushed while putting in my disposable contacts this morning, and one of them had that irritating something-is-caught-in-it sensation that I ignored, thinking it will eventually go away. Instead it's been bugging me for the last four hours. Having no contact solution with me at the office, I took it out and gave it a one-second rinse in tap water before putting it back in. The irritation is gone and I feel great, but now I'm sort of paranoid that this short tap-water-bath is going to ruin my eyesight. (Thanks, Yahoo answers!) Is the risk bad enough that I should just take them both out and go contact-less today?

I've read this thread, which is similar, but I'm not soaking my contacts in water overnight so it seems less worrying. On the other hand, there are a bunch of "Contacts must NEVER EVER EVER touch water!!!11!" stuff floating around the web.

Bah, I know I'm overreacting to this. It would still help to get confirmations of some kind, though.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I do that all the time. You're fine.
posted by something something at 12:07 PM on February 5, 2010

No. It'll be fine. I've done many many worse things to my contacts over the years.
posted by crickets at 12:07 PM on February 5, 2010

It's totally fine.
posted by Perplexity at 12:08 PM on February 5, 2010

(... including letting them completely dry out overnight, then re-hydrating them with tap water and popping them back in.)
posted by crickets at 12:09 PM on February 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Do you open your eyes in the pool? Ever get water in your eyes in the shower?

I could see concern of chlorinated water getting on the contacts, but I've gone swimming with contacts before (I know..they could fall out) and I didn't have a problem.
posted by AltReality at 12:09 PM on February 5, 2010

Echoing the 'it's fine' folks. My mother would take the things out and use her tongue to clean the things. Years, she did this. I think a little tap water on your eyes will be sterile by comparison.
posted by Pragmatica at 12:10 PM on February 5, 2010


Thanks for calming the panic, guys :)
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 12:10 PM on February 5, 2010

I've done this. My husband has done this. (My husband has actually put a contact lens in HIS MOUTH to clean it before popping it back in and, well, EW. And ouch. But you know, 20/350 vision and no glasses on hand = no real option.)

If you're really concerned, run out to a pharmacy and grab a travel sized bottle of solution. But I really think you're fine for the remainder of the day.
posted by devinemissk at 12:12 PM on February 5, 2010

The reason to keep contacts away from more-or-less pure water has more to do with the health of the contacts than it does the health of your eyes.

You, and they, will be fine.
posted by valkyryn at 12:12 PM on February 5, 2010

I would be so blind if that were a problem. I got a contact knocked out at a Mardi Gras Parade, found it in the dirt in the street, spat on it, which accidentally blew it back into the dirt, found it again, spat on it and stuck it back in. (I'd love to say alcohol was involved in that decision, but it was more a "Stick it back in or be unable to find the car and drive home" decision.) I've found that leaving them overnight in glasses of water when you don't have a case or solution only results in the contacts feeling a bit crappier than usual in the morning.
posted by artychoke at 12:16 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would seriously question the advice you are getting in this thread. Tap water can have Acanthamoeba in it, which can infect your eye. Having had an infected cornea myself when I was younger, I wouldn't put my eyesight at risk.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:17 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

On one hand, you can go your entire contact-wearing career treating your contacts poorly, and being OK.

On the other hand, you can, like two of my friends, get bacterial infections that cause eye ulcers or worse.

Don't stress out about this happening the one time, but in the future carry a travel-sized bottle of solution in your purse/pockets or leave one in your desk at work.
posted by muddgirl at 12:25 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

As another data point, Momus lost his eye from acanthamoeba keratitis, contracted from washing his lenses in tap water.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:28 PM on February 5, 2010

I once had to hold my eye open in a sinkful of cold tap water for half an hour (I accidentally squirted glowstick juice in my eye, and when we called the hospital that's what they told us to do). No harm done. The tap water irritated my eyes more than the glowstick stuff did, so my guess is that tap water is more irritating than saline.

I've heard all sorts of stories of contact users dropping their contacts on the floor and popping them back in, or spitting on them, all that unhygienic stuff. I think you'll be fine.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:37 PM on February 5, 2010

Metroid Baby - flushing your eyes with water doesn't trap the bacteria in between your lens and your cornea, effectively creating a warm and wet environment perfect for growth.
posted by muddgirl at 12:42 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tap water is dirtier than contact lens fluid. It doesn't follow that this is necessarily harmful. Your body is good at fighting off infectious things.
posted by dfriedman at 12:51 PM on February 5, 2010

You're fine, but if the irritation on your eye persists, please go see your eye doctor immediately, even if usually your eye clears up by itself. I didn't, and now I have lovely lumpy permanent scar damage on my eyelid from a stupid simple eye infection. Awesome!
posted by Malla at 1:33 PM on February 5, 2010

You do have a non-zero risk of getting some kind of infection. but it's still a very very tiny risk. Plus you've had it in there a while anyway, so taking it out now versus taking it out when you get home isn't going to change that risk in any meaningful way. If it feels irritated or sore or weird then take it out, but you'd do that anyway. Also washing your hands properly before doing any manoeuvres such as this is probably a good idea, they're way more dirty than tap water.

Personally I carry a tiny bottle of rewetting eyedrops around, much smaller than a travel bottle of lens fluid and just as clean/isotonic/whatever for a quick lens rinse should it be needed (and I'm often able to squirt some drops in my eye and remove the grit that way, which is much easier than taking the lens out). Just as an extra idea for the future.
posted by shelleycat at 1:34 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

As another data point, Momus lost his eye from acanthamoeba keratitis, contracted from washing his lenses in tap water.

As a further data point, however, it was Greek tap water. Which, apparently, Wikipedia seemed to indicate was a significant enough data point to mention it on the link BP posted above; sounds to me like they were implying that there may be differing levels of sanitation between tap water here and tap water in other countries.

Not that there's a non-zero risk at all in the U.S., but one time probably doesn't carry a risk that you should be booking an emergency trip to the eye doctor or anything. But not making a habit of it is also probably a good idea.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on February 5, 2010

FWIW I've also always been paranoid about putting water on my contacts because an optometrist once told me it makes them swell up. He said if no solution is available, the best way to re-moisten them is to put them in your mouth for a few seconds. Yeah, weird, but apparently salivia is closer to saline and safer than water. I've never done it but will always remember the tip.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 2:44 PM on February 5, 2010

dfriedman: Your eyes are particularly delicate, what with having so little blood supply. If you're doing the Mithridates thing I really suggest not starting with your eyes.

KokuRyu: Those squiggly things are actually inside your eyeball, not on the surface. (You can't really focus on stuff that's on your cornea.)
posted by hattifattener at 4:53 PM on February 5, 2010

I know this is not [what-gross-things-have-you-done-to-contacts filter] but I have, in a real pinch, re-wet a contact in my mouth *blush*

Your vision will be fine.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 7:18 PM on February 5, 2010

I, too, have done the things people listed in this thread (short of putting them in my mouth) and during my three years of wearing contacts I've had four corneal ulcers/corneal infections brought on by contact irritation. Let me tell you, they suck.

The short story is, it's ok to soak your contacts in water overnite if you don't have solution / rinse them under the tap / let them dehydrate overnite then rehydrate them with water. The key is, when you put them back in and they feel fine? Take them out as soon as you can because the bacteria is still doing damage to your eye. I realize that I'm an atypical case, but I figured it was worth noting.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:07 AM on February 6, 2010

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