Diving With Contact Lenses

Diving With Contact Lenses

Diving with contact lenses female diver

- Shane Gross

Are you starting diving and using glasses? Or maybe contact lenses? You will be happy to know that you can still dive!

You might be afraid that without your glasses, you want be able to see underwater. And you’ve heard that diving with contact lenses is not an option. That is not true!

There are two ways of diving when you have visual impairment(aka use glasses or contacts): one is simply to use your contact lenses underwater on your dive, the other is using prescription masks.

Here's Survive A Silt-Out!: Diving In Low Visibility

This article will only focus on diving with contact lenses:

What Type of Lens To Use

There are two types of contact lenses: hard and soft. Both can be used for diving, however soft contact lens have more advantages. Check it out:

Hard Lenses

  • They won’t allow gas to penetrate. This might cause some blurry vision after the dive. Why does this happen? The eye absorbs nitrogen, and when you descend this nitrogen slowly escapes the eye. The hard lenses won’t allow the nitrogen to escape therefore tiny bubbles will form between the lenses and eye causing blurry vision.
  • You could experience slightly dryer eyes and have to blink more than normal.
  • Hard contacts are usually smaller and therefore the risk of them falling out is larger, when the dive mask is floated.

Hard contact lenses are not really recommended for scuba diving. Although hard lenses don’t pose medical threat, they’re just not worth the aggravation.

 

Soft Lenses

  • Allows gas to penetrate letting air pass through the lenses.
  • Eyes will not feel dry when diving.
  • When descending you will not have the same bubbly experience as using the hard lenses.
  • Soft lenses are slightly larger. If you float the mask you will be able to hold the lens inside by just closing your eyes, slightly. The eyelid will hold the lens inside.
Diving with contact lenses allowed

Choose the right contact lens for scuba diving - Credit: Svetlana Lukienko

Tell Your Buddy

You need to tell your dive buddy that your vision will be impaired in case of losing your mask or getting water in the mask.

You can’t talk underwater and if your buddy doesn’t know what’s happening to you it’ll be hard for him to help. There is also is a risk of either losing your mask when diving. If this happens you will need your buddy to help. You can’t find your mask with your eyes closed.

Always tell your buddy what can influence you on a dive and discuss what to do in case something happens!

Alternatives to diving with contact lenses

Does the thought of wearing contact lenses turn you off or bother you? Luckily there are other ways to see underwater:

  • Prescription masks can be custom made especially for your eyesight.
  • Corrective lenses can be made that fit in standard masks.
  • Small correction stickers that stick on the inside of the mask lens can be used.

Do you Use Contact Lenses?

We want to hear about your diving experiences wearing contact lenses! Give us a shout and tell us about it!

Diving With Contact Lenses
4.5 (90.45%) 44 votes

About The Author

Torben Lonne

Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand - and dived most of his life in most of the world.He is also the co-founder and chief-editor of DIVE.in you can always catch him here [email protected]

44 Comments

  1. David Mc Nally

    Great blog post! I use contact lenses (soft) myself and I’ve had problems dropping lenses when diving – probably because of a semi-flooded mask.

    I’ve resolved it by buying a mask with two lenses and replaced the left lens with a lens with power matching my left eye contact lens. I then remove my left contact lens before diving. This lets me dive with great vision on my right eye (with a soft contact), okay vision on my left eye (the mask lens does not work as well as a contact lens) and if my mask gets flooded I still have the left lens in my mask to let me see.

    Reply
    • Torben

      Hi David,

      Thanks I love your problem solving on this issue. It’s a great way of alway being able to see underwater. But have you ever considered using a prescription mask, I don’t know how well they works but I’ve heard great things about them.

  2. David Mc Nally

    Hi Torben,

    I have considered that, yes, however the price appears to be quite high. The current solution with a cheap lens with power (I have -4.75 on my left eye and the lens is -3.50) works fine while costing less than 50€.

    Reply
    • Torben

      Okay, when using that high strength the price is of cause quite high. I think I’ve seen aqua lung offering okay cheap lenses fitting in their basic mask, but not sure if they make them that strong.
      And if your current solution works, there is no reason waisting money chancing! Rather spending them on the next dive trip :)

  3. Joe May

    Hi I need a bid of advice, great article it answered a few of my questions regarding diving and contacts. But I would like to know what you would suggests using contacts or a mask with prescription glasses?
    I’m new to diving and doing my open water course I didn’t use anything, because normally I wear glasses and didn’t bring any contacts on our holiday.
    So my question is should I spend the money on the mask of get a few contacts for when diving! I can see you already talked about a large price on the prescription mask but are it worth the money?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Torben

      Hi Joe, Thanks for your question and thanks for liking the article!
      Now this is a bit of a tough one! I would say it depends on how often you dive and how much you are prepared to spend! As David wrote prescription glasses is expensive but I would say also the better choice. If you can get use to contacts this could be a way to start. Try diving with contacts and see if this option works for you, if not you could try corrections sticks in the mask and last prescription masks.
      Hope it helped!

  4. Jason Carl

    I started diving long time ago, and with the strength I use there was only hard lenses. Back then they didn’t work at all. They popped out, went missing in the eye and all in all were completely uncomfortable. I invested in the mask with glasses in and they worked well. I look like a dork, but I can see without problem. I lost, I think, two years ago and was too cheap to buy it again. They are expensive, if they should work properly. Now I use, not as often as before, add ons in the mask. Corrective lenses that stick on the inside of the mask, I would say it works quite well. Better than lenses for me at least.

    Reply
    • Torben

      Thanks for sharing Jason! I think there has been some improvement in lenses, by time. But good to hear that corrective lenses work, they are definitely the cheaper option!

  5. jeff

    I am a PADI instructor. I teach and dive with soft lenses and have for about 10 years with no problems. I have students that use lenses in the mask and some with contacts. Both work well. It is all about what works. Best part of your advice – tell your buddy. Thanks

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Jeff, yes the soft lenses is a good choice for diving and always a good idea to inform your buddy about it.
      Thank you for commenting!

  6. Thomas Petersen

    I’m using lenses when diving, and have also owned a mask with prescription glasses. I’m sticking with lenses, as they are cheap and when using lenses I can replace my mask easily in any diveshop. I can find the best mask for me without worrying about if they can be delivered with prescription glasses. I would hate to be on a diving trip and loosing or breaking a prescription mask – with lenses i can easily afford to have a spare mask in case of bad luck.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      hi Thomas,
      I think that’s one of the best reason to use lenses instead of prescription masks. A pro fitting mask can really ruin a lot on a dive. have you ever lost a lens on a dive? I guess you use soft one day lenses, so they are easy to replace? One of the problems i could see, is loosing monthly disposable contact lenses on a vacation. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thomas Petersen

      Hi Torben,

      I don’t think I have ever lost a contactlens on a dive. If I need to rinse my mask underwater, I only let a little water in, then tilt my head foreward to let the small amount of water rinse the glasses, and then I don’t get any water in my eyes and won’t risk loosing a lens.

      I use one-day lenses, and also have a pair of glasses – I often use my glasses for the whole day, wich means I have a lot of lenses piling up (I have a montly subscription to my lenses), so I always pack about 30-40 lenses for my holiday, that way it’s a big problem if I should loose a lense or two :-)

    • Torben Lonne

      There’s quite a few opinions on what’s best, so nice to get some first hand feedback on what’s working best. I guess it’s all a matter of preferences. Thanks for commenting Thomas!

  7. Bob Lawrence

    I bought the soft magnifiers that you place in your mask using just water. They cost $35 a pair and stuck well however I had to reposition them up higher and forgot to clean the glass prior to that so when I repositioned them, put in my anti fog and rinsed them, they washed out into the ocean. I now have a line on an optometrist who will make the lenses to my prescription and permanently glue them in for about $100.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      hi Bob, but before you washed them out, how did they work? Did they give great vision? That is an okay deal if it works and you never have to hazel with it again! Thanks for sharing, let us know how they work when you get them installed!

  8. Dr. Ahmad Al-Halwagy

    First I’m an ophthalmologist ( eye doctor ) , a diver, and use glasses. I found it very practical to use soft conatct lenses while diving. I don’t advise using hard contact lenses in that purpose at all. Prescription masks cost mush, while contact lenses can be changed at a reasonable price. Although they cost less than masks, they provide better vision and depth perception than masks do. I hardly found problems using cantacts on diving, the only drawback is that you cann’t take your mask off because, for sure you will lose at least one of your contacts. so it’s better to blow water off your mask as early as they collect in. Good luck

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Dr. Ahmad, thanks for your comment! It’s always nice to get a professional point of view. And no it’s not advisable to use the hard contact lenses. It’s nice to hear so many using contact lenses when diving. Thanks!

  9. Jay Skiba

    I use the extended wear contacts. A hair bigger and thinner than regular soft lenses. They adhere to the eye and breath a little better also. My eyesight is terrible, -7 in the right and -8 in the left. Will be getting lens transplants in a few years due to small traumatic cataracts, so that will take care of the sight problem.

    Reply
  10. Song Asanarong

    If you can fork up some money, I really recommend going for LASIK surgery. This will permantly fix your eye sights and you will never have to wear contact lenses again. I used to use contact lenses but they keep popping out underwater. I decided to do LASIK and I never regretted it. Best investment ever. Now, I dive with happiness and no worries of contact lenses.

    Reply
    • Nicolai Lønne

      I very much agree with you – laser eye surgery takes away a lot of problems with glasses and lenses. I think it’s close to five years ago that I had my operation done (when from +5/+4.5 and no nearly 0 on both eyes; amazing improvement).

      When I started diving I used contacts and it did put a little extra irritation into it all. Especially doing my open water and having to take of my mask for the first time (and second, and third and a hole lot of other times) I was always afraid to lose my lenses.
      After the operation I enjoyed diving much more!

      However, I wouldn’t recommend going for this operation only for improved dive experience :-)
      As with all operations there are risks and it is still very expensive. You can afford to lose of lot of lenses for the price of an operation – and more important I was told not to dive in a period of up to 6 months after the operation!

  11. Cat Bernatchez

    I have a very different kind of contacts (Orthokeratology) that I highly recommend to anyone considering laser eye surgery or having troubles with their regular contact lenses. Being a white water rafting guide and an extreme sports junky, these contact lenses are the only ones for me.

    Orthokeratology is an alternative to refractive surgery, glasses and daily contact lenses. I put my contact lenses on before going to bed, I take them off in the morning and have clear vision for the rest of the day (24 hours)!

    Orthokeratology (or Ortho-K) temporarily improves vision through reshaping the cornea with the use of oxygen permeable contact lenses. Similar to a dental retainer used by Orthodontists, a comfortable retainer (contact lenses) are worn at night while sleeping. They are removed upon waking to provide clear vision without the use of eyeglasses or contact lenses.
    It is a safe, non-surgical, reversible, modifiable alternative to laser surgery and does not require medications. Great for athletes, dry eyed patients associated with contact lens wear, those who work in dusty, dirty environments and those ineligible for refractive surgery.

    Hope this information can help some people. Yes, the contact lenses are more expensive than regular ones and not offered everywhere, but definately worth every penny or extra mile in my opinion on top of being safe and non-surgical.

    Reply
  12. Mark

    Just saw this article and decided to contribute. I use dailies contact lenses (soft). No issue at all. I’ve also used contact lens (soft) for swimming. Open my eyes in water to look around and my contacts don’t fall out. So that’s about it.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Mark, Thanks for sharing. Do you open your eyes completely when swimming?

    • Mark

      ya. open my eyes completely. using dailies is kinda better in my opinion because i always bring spares whenever i do my outdoor activities. if it irritates, i just take them off and put on a new pair. it’s still a cheaper alternative then buying corrective masks. possibly cost the immediate cost is so prohibitive for me.

  13. Gosia

    I wear contact lenses every day (-3 both eyes) but use corrective mask for diving. I don’t feel comfortable wearing lenses underwater. My eyes get really dry. It must be something to do with the pressure as swimming with lenses is not a problem.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Well I guess we are all different. And it’s good there is options. I have no idea why your eyes gets dry, I can’t figure how pressure would interfere, but it might be.
      Thanks for sharing, Gosia!

    • Mark

      i think the eyes get dry for various reasons like the saltier water in the sea and oceans., lack of water intake in your body, etc. a good way of temporarily prolonging contact lens is to use eyedrops often during dives. but do avoid using eyedrops too often during daily wear as your eyes may start to depend on them.

    • Gosia

      I really don’t know what it is. It could be a bit psychological as well. Corrective mask works well for me. It was about £90 and definitely worth the money. There is also an option to swap back to regular lenses in case I wanted to dive with contacts.

  14. Filia

    I wear contact lenses in almost all my dive and so far, I never have problem with them. They help me a lot. However, I’m being very careful with mask issue. I really try to avoid taking my mask off and always make sure to secure my mask so it won’t float off.
    This article gives me a really useful tips! I never know that by slightly closing my eyes then the eyelids will hold the lenses!
    I won’t purposely try it, but I will remember this. Just in case if in the next dives, I have to took my mask off.
    Thank you, Torben!

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      You are most welcome Filia!
      Then you don’t have to tighten the mask all too much. It’s a good thing to practice so you know how to react in case someone kicks it off or the strap brakes. It’s always good to know how to react.

  15. David Pearce

    Hi Torben

    This was a really useful article for me, because I have become really frustrated recently with my eyesight underwater! I wear multi-focal glasses (age catches up with all of us!), and recently decided to get contact lenses for diving. I will be receiving them within a week or two, but I’ve been wondering if they will work out. It seems they are the way to go based on the comments on your article.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi David, it happens to the best of us. :) I’m glad I could help a bit.
      It seems to be the pick of the majority. I hope it’ll work for you as well. Please do let us know what you think of them and how it worked out for you?

  16. Tara

    Thank you very much for this – was glad to see some people that had the same problems I was having with corrective masks. Just as a side note though, opening your eyes underwater (without a mask) is not recommended – it’s a good way to get an infection or dry them out (if in salt water).

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      What are the chances/risks of getting an infection? I’ve been diving and swimming a thousand times with open eyes, without any infection problems. It it only when using lenses or in any case that theres a big risk?

  17. sayhau

    i have been teaching full mask removal and no mask swim in both pool and confined water many time with my contact lenses on. Discomfort? losing lenses? never happened. Oddly enough the only time i lost my contact lens was on the surface after a dive when sea water got in my eyes.

    I have been very careful with my lenses though. if i felt any discomfort i’d remove them immediately. And i wash and soak my contact lenses every evening that’s a must for me.

    Reply
  18. Al

    I have keratokonus, amd have been diving for over 20 years. I have almost always have used rigid gas permeable lenses. I just lost one lens this past July while on a diving trip, luckily i had a spare with me.
    If I experience dry eyes or blurry vision after a dive, which is not often, I use eye drops which do the trick.
    I’ve considered prescription masks in the past, but since I hace never been able to see as well with eyeglasses as with lenses, I decided not to buy them. Plus, this keratocomus things changes my prescrption frequently, meaning more $$$ on masks!
    Happy diving everyone!

    Reply
  19. Anke

    I dive with daily lenses too. There is no problem flooding the mask or diving without mask and open eyes. I had to do this for my rescue diver. With dailies it’s no problem, other lenses would bring infections.
    I never lost a lense on a dive.

    Reply
  20. Joseph

    I’ve used contact lenses and prescription dive mask for 10 years. Everything worked out fine but I suggest it’s better to have a PRK or Laser surgery and you don’t have to worry about contact lenses or mask prescriptions anymore.

    Reply
  21. Scubanomad

    I dive and swim with my soft contact lenses. So far so good. There is minor dryness, but I prefer contact lenses to prescription mask. If I happen to lose my contact lenses, I can easily open a new pair. It is also easier to pack extra contact lenses. On the other hand, prescription mask is expensive and hard to get replacement.

    Reply
  22. James Dean

    I came across this article and wish I had read it when I started to dive:I have been diving for years now and wear contact lenses, and had all kinds of problems in the beginning. Scuba diving is a fun activity and it is a pity to miss out on all the action because you can’t see! Although there are prescription diving masks, these are an expensive option. If you can wear contact lenses it is perfectly safe and easy to wear them when diving. However, if you are learning to dive, you will need to ‘clear your mask’ (over and over again!), until you have mastered that technique. Mask clearing (letting the water in your mask and then getting it out again), is a sure fire way to lose your lenses, unless you have your eyes closed during the whole exercise. Tell your diving instructor that you wear contact lenses and ask for his advice while learning this technique – he will probably tell you to clear your mask with your eyes shut. Another risk is getting your masked ‘kicked off’ or displaced during a dive. If you look around to find your mask, you can lose your lenses! Try to find your mask with one eye, at least then you only stand a chance of losing just the one lens and can complete the dive – better still get your buddy to find it!

    Reply
  23. Geko Dive Bali

    Great article. I’ll be sure to show it to contact lens wearers who dive with us!

    Reply
  24. Nada

    Nice info for a glassesman like me. But i want to give some correction, that hard lens is gas permeable while soft lens isnt. If you refer hard lens as that one made by hospital lab.

    Reply
  25. Frank

    Well I was a bit worried about diving with contact lenses underwater, so was willing to give them a go. I ask my optometrist for some guidance and although it was his first attempt for a scuba diver, he was more than willing to help. so first a consultation to check my vision then we tried a sample to see the outcome before actually diving at depth so I tried them in a pool and it was OK. So proceeded an ordered the contacts. which are much cheaper than prescription Dive masks. the disadvantage of Prescription dive masks is that if your vision changes you will need to replace the lenses and that is costly and if they get scratched that’s more money wasted.

    Dive #1 was 35mts, being very cautious at first, but to my surprise I was very comfortable, I could see clearly,
    We did 12 dives and did not loose any of my contacts while diving, just keep your mask on until your ready to get out of the water.

    So I can safely say that contact lenses are perfectly safe to dive with.

    It is also a good idea to inform your dive buddy you are wearing contacts, and if on a dive boat let the dive operators know as well.

    Reply

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