Can I Ski (And Play Sports) Wearing Contact Lenses?
Of course you can! One of the best things about modern contact lenses is the freedom they give you, to do pretty much what you want.Want to ski down a mountainside? Keen to take part in sports? Contacts can liberate you, in ways impossible or impractical for glasses-wearers.
LENSES ON THE SLOPES
If you enjoy winter sports, you’ll know how much glasses like to steam up, leaving you in a mist. You can use anti-fog wipes and sprays, but you’ll still be left wearing an uncomfortable construction which has a strange urge to break, fall off or obscure your peripheral vision
Spectacles under your goggles feel uncomfortable, look weird and are liable to snap just when you need them the most. By contrast, contact lenses give you clear all-round vision and don’t slip down your nose, distort your view or get streaked with rain.
If you plan to take advantage of these benefits by wearing contact lenses whilst skiing, snowboarding or ice skating, make sure you wear UV blocking sunglasses or goggles on top. Everyone - with or without lenses - should wear sunglasses on the slopes, since they reduce the strong sunlight’s blinding intensity and (most importantly) protect your eyes from damaging ultraviolet (UV) light.
UV rays can reach your eyes even when the sun’s not shining. Snow reflects these harmful rays into your face, so the effect is like sunbathing in 40° heat, without eye protection! These UV rays can damage your eyes and cause photokeratitis - a condition which burns and damages your cornea . You will not enjoy what follows.
The effects can include pain and discomfort, swelling, light sensitivity, headaches, blurriness, distorted colours and even a temporary loss of vision.
If any of this starts to happen, the obvious advice is: stop wearing your lenses but not your sunglasses. See your optician as soon as you can. Your eyes are likely to heal quickly, but they’re too important to be left unchecked.
LENSES IN THE COLD AND AT ALTITUDE
Lenses work at any altitude. As far back as 1975, using lens technology that has now been vastly improved, climbers on Everest wore lenses at heights up to 7,315 meters!
However, your contact lenses may dry out in the cold (just as they do with central heating). The key is to keep them hydrated. You first line of support is to blink. The second is to use eye drops suited to your lenses - check with your optician to get the right ones. If you can, apply them in a clean, warm environment like a hut, chalet or café, rather than on a ski-lift or the slopes. Your third option is to switch to glasses if the dryness persists.
Although your lenses will never freeze, if it gets especially cold your solution might. Consider keeping your kit (lens case with the lenses, solution, and/or supply of daily disposables) warm in your sleeping bag, if you ever camp out in extreme conditions.
You can wear monthlies to ski, but daily disposables are a particularly good idea when on the slopes: you’re unlikely to have access to comfortable facilities for cleaning or fitting monthlies, which is of course made harder with frozen fingers! If you’re a regular monthlies user planning a ski trip or chilly holiday, a wise move is to ask your optician to switch you to dailies, temporarily.
Along with winter sports, lenses are great in the gym, for running outside, and even for contact sports like football and rugby. They’re ideal on the tennis or squash court - and cyclists and horse riders alike find them much easier to combine with protective helmets than glasses.
This also makes them a brilliant option for high-adrenaline activities like paragliding or mountain biking. You don’t want to be fiddling with corrective glasses when dangling from a crag or sorting out your ropes!
However, in some outdoor pursuits, it’s a good idea to wear sunglasses or protective goggles on top of your lenses, stopping inevitable dirt, dust and bugs from getting into your eyes. You can wear the same ‘off the shelf’ non-corrective sport-specific solutions as anyone else - whilst retaining perfect vision.
But what about water sports? See our article on swimming to explore the opportunities and limitations of contact lenses under water - and have a chat with your optician about your safe long-term options.
BE RESPONSIBLE - TO BE FREE
Whatever sport you do, and however liberating your lenses, plan ahead and follow sensible guidance. If you use daily disposables, take a spare pack with you (and don’t forget a mirror!). If monthlies, it’s a good idea to take spares and to keep your contact lens solution and case with you, ideally close to your body so that it doesn’t freeze in the cold, or boil in the heat.
Should you find that contact lenses don’t suit your eyes or preferences, prescription skiing goggles (or even laser surgery) provide another way forward.
Whatever you do, stick to everyday best practice. Don’t put dirty lenses back in your eyes - and make sure you take them out before showering.
If you follow this simple advice, you’ll make the best of a whole raft of activities - all made possible through the wonders of amazing contact lenses.