The short answer, is yes. Have you ever left the pool and felt a slight burning in your eyes? Or glanced in the mirror after a swim only to find your eyes were bright red? That is the result of chlorinated water. While chlorine is a necessary sanitizing agent in pools to prevent diseases from spreading and reduce the amount of water-borne bacteria, it is still a chemical and dangerous to your eyes.
Chlorine strips away the tear film that protects your cornea, making your eyes vulnerable to the dirt and bacteria floating around that wasn’t eliminated by the chlorinated water. (Ironic, right?) This can result in these three common eye issues:
- Pink eye or conjunctivitis. This is one of the most common eye infections swimmers can get, as it can be either viral or bacterial and spreads quickly and easily through the water.
- Red, irritated eyes. This is a result of your eyes becoming dehydrated due to the chlorine and the removal of your tear film. Sometimes you may also experience blurriness and distorted vision, though this is usually only temporary.
- Acanthamoebic keratitis. This is a severe eye infection that is caused by amoeba becoming trapped between the cornea and the contact lens. It can begin to live there, which can result in ulcers on your cornea and permanent damage to your vision.
With all of these risks to your eyes from chlorine, swimming might seem a bit scarier than before. However, there is no need to fear! By taking simple safety precautions, you can protect your eyes and enjoy time by the pool. Here are some swimming safety tips from the Eye Docs:
- If you do experience redness and irritation, know that these symptoms should disappear within a few minutes.
- Use lubricating eye drops to restore your cornea’s protective tear film and find relief from irritation and dryness.
- Remove your contact lenses before entering the pool.
- If you do swim with contacts on, remove them immediately after swimming and sanitize them with lens solution. Do not sleep in them. If possible, the safest move is to throw those lenses away and use a fresh pair.
- ALWAYS wear water-tight goggles with a strong seal when swimming.
The Eye Docs want you to be able to relax and have fun in the pool. By taking these easy steps whenever you decide to take a dive, you can have peace of mind that your eyes and your vision are protected. So, go ahead and make a splash! (Just be sure to wear your goggles.)