Summer is a great season to spend time at the beach or lounge in a pool. But if you’re not careful, an irritated or infected eye might just ruin a perfectly sunny day or your entire vacation. So if you plan on spending most of your time in the water (whether it’s in a pool, lake or beach), make sure that your eyes are protected when swimming.
Downtown Eyes, a reputable eye clinic in the area, shares an essential guide to protecting your eyes while swimming.
Remove Your Contact Lenses
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) warns against the use of contact lenses while swimming because this can put you at risk of corneal infection, which can result in eye damage or vision loss. That said, don’t forget to take out your contacts before stepping in the water. Losing your contacts could possibly happen, but this might be the least of your concerns while swimming.
According to experts, opening your eyes with your lenses in while you’re in the water enables bacteria or chemicals to become embedded in your contacts and stay in your eye for a longer time. Furthermore, bacteria can also slip underneath your contacts and stay on the surface of your eye, increasing your risk of getting an eye infection.
Chlorine is essential in killing most of the germs in pools, making them safe for people to swim in. However, remember that chlorine is still a chemical that can irritate your eyes. More specifically, it can irritate your tear film or the thin layer of tears coating the surface of your eyes. Eye irritation due to pool chemicals typically causes a gritty feeling and redness in the eye, which could further lead to “swimmer’s eye,” a type of dry eye that commonly happens in people who use the pool frequently. Fortunately, you can avoid the harmful effects of chlorine and any lingering bacteria in the pool by wearing goggles.
Use Artificial Tears to Flush Your Eyes Out
Flush your eyes out with artificial tears after getting out of the pool. This will help restore the pH of your eye and remove some of the irritants. Tap water should not be used for this purpose because it can harbor acanthamoeba and other bacteria. That is why you should strictly use artificial tears recommended by your eye specialist to flush out your eyes after a swimming session.
Swim Only in Areas That You Know
There’s always a risk of developing an infection every time you take a swim. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has seen an increase in recreational water illnesses for the past couple of decades. These diseases are caused by contact with contaminated pools, lakes, oceans, etc.
This isn’t to say that you can no longer enjoy swimming in these places. You can still be safe in natural and man-made bodies of water as long as you check water conditions and take extra steps to protect your eyes before taking a dip. For instance, you can check the Environmental Protection Agency’s water bacteria reports and updates to know what beaches are open for swimming. You can also get similar information from state and local parks services.
Below are some more information on specific bodies of water and how you can protect your eyes when swimming in these places:
Chlorinated Water in Swimming Pools and Water Parks
Chlorine is mainly used to keep the water in pools and water parks safe and clean. However, as mentioned earlier, it can cause a reaction to your eye’s surface since it is still basically a chemical. If you have been in a pool for a couple of hours, you may notice that your eyes are a little red and teary. They may also be sensitive to light. Wearing goggles decreases the exposure of your eyes to chlorine and minimizes its effects. You can also ease the symptoms by flushing your eyes out with artificial tears. If your eye still feels uncomfortable or is still not looking good after a few hours, consult an eye doctor as something more serious might be going on.
Additionally, if you have recently undergone eye surgery, avoid swimming in pools or putting your head underwater for at least two weeks after the procedure.
Fresh Water in Ponds and Lakes
Freshwater is typically home to bacteria and other organisms such as acanthamoeba, which can cause a rare infection that is difficult to treat. Acanthamoeba keratitis is a condition that is more commonly experienced by contact lens wearers due to frequent hand/eye contact and eye irritation. With this type of illness, the infection usually enters the eye when it comes in contact with a cut or irritation. It can also spread when you touch your eyes with hands that are wet from infected water.
Acanthamoeba keratitis can be treated with prescription eye medications. But it is important to get a diagnosis early. Otherwise, you might have to deal with a more serious condition. To avoid this type of infection, make sure to dry your hands completely before touching your contacts and putting them in.
Water From a Hose
Water from a hose is generally safe. However, spraying or directing water into someone’s eyes can cause damage. It can be especially dangerous when the water hits the eye at a high velocity. Children are often more prone to this kind of hazard, so make sure to remind them that they should not play with and point a garden hose at anyone’s eyes.
Wear Sunglasses With UV Protection
Don’t forget to wear your sunnies to prevent your eyes from getting sunburned. The sun’s UV rays can cause temporary damage to the cornea, resulting in a condition called photokeratitis. While the symptoms of photokeratitis (such as eye pain, redness and light sensitivity) typically fade away in one to two days, your eye doctor can treat the condition by prescribing lubricating drops or antibiotics. But of course, prevention is always better than cure, so always wear your sunglasses whenever you’re outside. Make sure your sunnies have 100% UV protection so that you can be certain it is capable of fully shielding your eyes against UV light.
Learn How to Spot Signs of Eye Infection
It’s important to have a general knowledge of how eye infections could present themselves. Below are some common signs of an eye infection:
sensitivity to light
discharge that is yellowish or mucus-like
Take note that acanthamoeba keratitis has similar symptoms, but this condition may also include excessive tearing and a sensation that feels like something is in your eye.
Treat Eye Infections Promptly
Make sure to call or see your eye doctor as soon as you notice any of the symptoms listed above. This way, they can evaluate your condition and prescribe an appropriate treatment. Treatment for eye infections varies depending on the cause, but it may include a warm compress (to soothe the pain), creams, eye drops or antibiotics.
Schedule an Appointment Today!
For contact eye exam and your other eye care needs, get in touch with Downtown Eyes. We have several years of experience in performing contact lens fittings and eye exams. Our eye doctors can also treat various kinds of eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic eye disease and more. Rest assured that our staff is trained to provide quality services and ensure your comfort during your appointment. To learn more about our services, call us at (612) 333-3937 (Minneapolis) or (612) 869-1333 (Richfield). You can also fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.