Swimming: Tips for Preserving Eye Health
Swimming offers a lot of benefits: it is fun, it is a great form of exercise, it is gentle on the joints, and it offers a way to cool off during the hot summer months. However, there are some risks associated with swimming as well. If people are not careful, swimming can affect eye health, possibly leading to dry eyes, infection, or other problems, especially among those who swim regularly.
The optometrists at GW Eye Associates encourage those in the La Jolla, Carmel Valley, and San Diego, CA, area to continue to enjoy swimming and other water sports that are commonly associated with the Southern California lifestyle. However, we recommend these swimming tips to preserve eye health and avoid complications.
Check Chemical Levels in the Pool
Swimming pools use chlorine and other chemicals to keep the water free of organisms and bacteria that can cause illness and infection. However, these chemicals can be harsh on the eyes, especially if they are not kept in proper balance. To avoid irritation and symptoms like dry, red, or itchy eyes, we recommend that pool owners regularly check chemical levels. Ideally, the pH balance of a pool should be around 7.4, which is roughly the same balance as the eyes.
The safest way to protect the eyes while swimming is to wear goggles. Goggles protect the surface of the eye as well as surrounding tear film. Goggles are especially beneficial when swimming in someone else’s pool (where you don’t have control over chemical levels) or in fresh water, such as lakes or rivers, where bacteria and viruses can thrive.
Apply Lubricating Eye Drops
One of the most common eye complications associated with regular swimming is dry eyes. Dry eyes can occur when the tear film is not functioning properly. The tear film is a layer of oil, water, and mucous that covers the cornea. If someone swims without goggles, the chemicals in the pool can wash the tear layer away. To support the tear layer, we recommend that individuals apply lubricating eye drops before and after swimming.
Avoid Swimming with Contact Lenses
If someone wears contact lenses regularly, they may be tempted to jump in the pool, or other body of water, with their contact lenses in place. However, this can be a recipe for disaster. Contact lenses can attract harmful bacteria, which can easily get trapped between the lens and the eye. Removing contact lenses before swimming can drastically reduce the risk of eye infection.
People who rely on their contact lenses to maintain clear vision while swimming should consider goggles instead. Many goggles are available with prescription lenses, and they further protect the eyes by blocking out bacteria and preventing other forms of irritation caused by swimming.
Wash Your Eyes after Swimming
It is good to get in the habit of washing your eyes after swimming, especially if you are swimming without goggles. Start with clean hands and then splash clean water on the eyes to flush out chemicals that could be caught on the eyelashes or eyelids. The eyes can also be washed with a sterile eyewash solution, which can be found over-the-counter at a pharmacy or drugstore.
Contact GW Eye Associates
Routine eye exams are the best way to monitor and preserve eye health, and they are especially important for regular swimmers. To learn about the comprehensive range of eye care services offered at GW Eye Associates, contact us online, or call our office at (858) 454-4699.