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How Swimming Affects Your Eye Health

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Dr. Marc Weinstein

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Before you jump into the pool, there are a few things to know when it comes to your eye health to prevent red, irritated eyes from ruining your pool or beach day.

You can blame the chemicals in swimming pools Chlorine and all the other chemicals put into swimming pools to keep the water clean cause dryness not only on your skin and hair, but your eyes too. These chemicals break down the tear film that lubricates and hydrates your eyes, leading to that red, itchy and irritated feeling after opening your eyes underwater.

Wearing goggles can help prevent these chemicals from touching your eyes. You can also wash your eyes after swimming to get rid of any remaining chemicals.

Frequent swimmers may develop chronic dry eye For those who like to take a daily or even a weekly dip, constantly exposing your eyes to pool chemicals can lead to recurrent dry eye. If you feel like it takes longer for your eyes to relieve itself of the irritation, lubricating eye drops can help as well as drinking enough water so your entire body can keep hydrated and run efficiently.

Contact lenses and swimming aren’t the best match You might think that contact lenses are ideal for swimming, giving you perfect sight without goggles, but think again. First of all, there is a chance that they may not stay in your eyes in the movement of water. Second, bacteria in pools, lakes, oceans and other bodies of water can get trapped in your contact lenses leading to infection, ulcers and potential blindness.

The best solution for contact-wearing swimmers is to ditch the contacts altogether and wear prescription goggles. However, if you must wear your contacts, wear regular goggles over them. Even if only a tiny bit of water gets into your eyes, it’s important to disinfect your lenses afterwards with some contact solution to clear away any lingering bacteria.

Stay away from waters you don’t know Whether you wear contacts or not, bacteria in waters not meant for swimming can wreak havoc on your eyes. In untreated water, your chances of exposing your eye to harmful bacterias increases, upping the chance that you’ll contract pink eye, ulcers or worse. The best tip here is to just stay away.

No swimming right after eye surgery Swimming before your eyes have healed from surgery can lead to complications and infection. Whether you’ve had major eye surgery, or something more minor like LASIK, you’ll want to adhere to your doctor's orders when it comes to heading back into the water. Any open incisions, even tiny ones, gives bacteria an even greater chance to enter your eye, delaying the healing process and introducing complications from infection that can cause vision loss.