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Protect Your Vision

Protect Your Vision: Swimming and Eye Safety

Do you know what might be lurking in that waterpark or pool?

Parasitic bacteria. Gross, yes. And dangerous, too. According to a CDC report, Outbreaks Associated with Treated Recreational Water:

“about 500 disease outbreaks in treated recreational water were reported between 2001 and 2014. Those outbreaks caused more than 27,200 cases of infection and eight deaths in 46 states and Puerto Rico. Pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) accounted for most of the outbreaks (94 percent), while chemicals in the water were linked to the remaining outbreaks.”

Whether you are swimming in the ocean, pool, lake or waterpark, infections can be dangerous to your eyes as well. Many types of bacteria live in water, and can cause serious problems.

Learn How to Protect Your Vision While Swimming

The American Academy of Ophthalmology explains why:

  • A thin layer of tears called the tear film coats the surface of our eyes. This tear film keeps our eyes moist, smooth and clear. Chlorine and other chemicals used to keep pool water clean can wash away the moist layer of tear film, leaving eyes uncomfortable and red.
  • People who swim frequently may develop dry eye, where they don’t produce enough tears or the right quality of tears. It can feel like they have grit in their eyes, or their vision becomes blurry.
  • According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Without the protection of a fully functioning tear film, eyes are exposed to harmful pool chemicals and lingering bacteria. Chlorine itself can cause a reaction, leaving the surface and edges of your eyes red, itchy, watery and uncomfortable. And bacteria that survive the chlorine can lead to an eye infection, such as pink eye (conjunctivitis).

And it could get worse.

Edward Bennett, O.D., M.S. Ed., chair of the AOA’s Contact Lens and Cornea Section (CLCS) and assistant dean at the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry, emphasizes the negative effects of bacteria on the eye:

“There are many types of bacteria and other microorganisms in pool water and, if the eye is already irritated, these organisms can cause a serious sight-threatening infection, often called a corneal ulcer,” Dr. Bennett says. “Although rare, the most devastating such infection is ‘Acanthamoeba keratitis,’ which often results in the need for a corneal transplant (in the most severe cases). These organisms can become attached to the contact lenses, which increases the risk for infection. In these cases, the eyes will be red and painful, and vision will be blurred. Therefore, you should immediately contact your eye care doctor for treatment.

So how can you protect your eyes?

The AAO recommends:

Wear Goggles

Wear a pair of swim goggles every time you swim. Goggles keep pool chemicals out of your eyes, helping to keep your tear film healthy.

Wash Your Eyes

Splash your closed eyes with fresh water immediately after swimming. This washes chlorine and other chemicals off your eyelids and eyelashes.

Use Eye Drops…

Use over-the-counter lubricating eye drops before and after swimming to keep the tear film balanced and eyes comfortable.

…or Use Gel Tears

Got dry eye? Help protect your tear film by putting in thicker artificial tears called gel tears before putting on your goggles. Check with your ophthalmologist to see about prescription eye drops as well.

Stay Hydrated

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Staying well hydrated is an important part of keeping your eyes moist and comfortable.

If you wear contact lenses, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the following guidelines:

  • Do not expose your contact lenses to any water: tap, bottled, distilled, lake or ocean water.
  • Remove lenses before swimming.
  • If you must wear lenses in the water, using watertight goggles can help prevent infection.
  • If lenses have been exposed to water, dispose of them after use.
  • Contact your eye care professional if you experience any symptoms of eye irritation or infection.

Don’t let vision problems get in the way of your summer fun! Always see your Ophthalmologist if you experience any of these eye symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching / burning
  • Blurred vision
  • Floaters / spots

See what you’ve been missing! Trust ZiekerEye Ophthalmology for all your eye care needs. Call us at 518.450.1080 or use our convenient online Request an Appointment form to schedule your consultation.

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