By Elizabeth Askew, OD
Optometrist, Southboro Medical Group
Most of us love to be around the water this time of year, whether visiting the ocean or our favorite lake or pool. Before you dive in, however, just be aware that this type of summertime fun can be hard on your eyes. From the chlorinated water in pools to freshwater lakes and ponds, there are some dangers to be aware of. The good news is that you can prevent most potential eye problems with a little common-sense.
The reason chlorine is added to pools is to kill germs. However, chlorinated water can be hazardous to your eyes. It can strip away the tear film that’s designed to protect your cornea from dirt and bacteria. This is why chlorinated water frequently causes red, irritated eyes after an hour or two in the pool. Swimmers, and especially contact lens wearers, can also contract acanthamoebic keratitis. This severe eye infection can be caused by amoeba becoming trapped between the cornea and a contact lens. This is why you should always remove your contact lenses before swimming.
Whether in a pool, a lake or the ocean, the best way to protect your eyes when in the water is to wear swim goggles. Make sure they fit snugly to seal out water. Note that prescription swim goggles are available for those who need them.
Here are some additional tips to protect your eyes:
- Use sterile, lubricating eye drops after swimming to restore your eye’s tear film and provide relief from irritation and dryness.
- Keep in mind that any redness or irritation should disappear a short time after swimming. If problems persist, see a doctor.
- If you do swim with contacts under your swim goggles, remove and clean them immediately after swimming. If they are the disposable type, throw them away and use a fresh pair. Never sleep in contacts after swimming.
- If you have undergone eye surgery, avoid swimming for at least two weeks. Your eyes are more vulnerable to infection after surgery.
- You don’t have to worry about chlorine in tap water as it is usually present in much smaller amounts. However, when children are playing with hoses and sprinklers around the house, they should be reminded that it can be hazardous to spray or shoot water into someone’s eyes.
About Elizabeth Askew, OD
Dr. Askew has been practicing medicine since 1988. Specializing in general optometry, she believes vision is an integral part of our day to day living and being able to improve visual functioning makes an immediate impact on a person’s life. “Health care is a way to combine my love of science with my desire to have a positive connection with people. I try to find out my patients’ unique visual needs and tailor my approach to that...View profile View posts by this doctor