Being able to see clearly is an important aspect to scuba diving. You are going to want to be able to have your sense of sight to be aware of your surroundings throughout the entire dive. That being said, if you wear contact lenses, you can most certainly scuba dive with them in, as long as you follow a few suggestions:
Try to make sure you are wearing soft contact lenses
Tell your dive buddy/instructor that you are wearing contacts
Make sure that you have lubricating eye drops to put in your eyes before and after each dive
Bring an extra pair of contacts, or your glasses, with you on a dive should you lose one or both contact(s) on a dive
Keep your eyes closed whenever you have your mask off underwater
As long as you follow these suggestions, you should have minimal problems diving with contacts.
Soft vs Hard/Rigid Contact Lenses for Diving
The first point we made above was related to wearing soft contact lenses while you dive. The reason for this is mainly comfort and keeping your vision clear. Wearing hard/rigid contact lenses at depth makes you susceptible to the lens itself suctioning to your eye when the pressure increases. Not just this fact, but you will also run the risk of nitrogen bubbles forming on ascent between the contact lens and your eye, blurring your vision for the rest of the dive.
With soft contact lenses, you aren’t going to run into this issue. Their structure and material make the suction effect much less of a risk and also won’t allow nitrogen to form between the lens and your eye. Not just that, but soft contact lenses are much more comfortable, in our experience, than their rigid counterparts.
Communicate with your dive buddy
This is a big safety point with wearing contact lenses during a dive. Communication underwater is going to be mainly limited to hand signals and a slate if you have one with you. Making sure that the person you are diving with knows that it is a risk that you may lose a contact lens on a dive and have limited vision because of it is super important. This is a much easier task if you have communicated to your partner or instructor that you are wearing lenses before the dive.
Bring lubricating eye drops with you on the boat
This is an often overlooked item when coming up with your list of stuff to bring on a dive trip, but super important none-the-less. You want to make sure that you are keeping your contacts super lubricated between dives to lessen the chance that your eyes will become irritated. Having your contact lenses go dry can also cause headaches, which would be a great thing to avoid while on a diving trip.
Bring an alternate means of vision correction with you on the boat
In the off chance that you lose your mask while diving, you run the risk of losing your contacts underwater. If this happens on your first dive while out on a 2-dive charter, you are either going to have to forfeit your second dive, or dive without vision correction. Bringing an extra set of contacts with you will help you be able to make that second dive with clear vision. If you just bring glasses, if you want to make the second dive you’re going to go without vision correction, but you will be able to see clearly while on the boat.
In diving, redundancy is a great thing. Think of your backup contacts or glasses as your vision version of an octo and you won’t forget to bring them on your next dive.
Keep your eyes closed when you don’t have your mask on
This tip is super important. If you are wearing contact lenses you do not want to have your eyes open while practicing mask-off drills at depth. Make sure that you keep your eyes shut while clearing your mask, or swapping from one mask to another. Keeping your eyes shut will greatly reduce the chance that you lose a contact lens underwater.
Don’t wear contact lenses
This is another option that a lot of people overlook. You can just simply go without wearing contacts while diving. If your vision is good enough that you will still be able to perform/see normally underwater, you won’t need to wear your contact lenses underwater. It’s not like you are going to be doing any reading while at depth, so just go without.
However if your vision is not good enough that you can go without contacts, you are not totally out of luck. You can either pick up a pre-made prescription dive mask, or have custom lenses made for your existing mask that are your exact prescription strength. Wearing a prescription lense dive mask solves both issues at the same time. You don’t have to worry about all of the issues you may face while diving in contact lenses, and you will still have the ability to see clearly underwater. You may want to check out our in depth guide to prescription dive masks below.