Swimming and Eye Safety this Summer

Family Under Water in Swimming PoolFor many children, and adults, summertime means swim time. Whether it’s a visit to the beach or a dip in the local pool, swimming can be a fun, inexpensive way to stay healthy and cool this summer.  

Our BostonSight® PROSE patients know that they need to remove their prosthetic devices before swimming, or else use water-tight goggles. But everyone should be aware that swimming can come with ocular risks. Although there is a low risk of injury to the eye while swimming, chlorine and other irritants can cause ocular irritations and infections.

Chlorine in swimming pools can cause chemical conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the layer of transparent tissue covering the white part of the eye. Symptoms can include itching, burning or gritty sensations; excessive eye watering; swollen eyelids; light sensitivity; and blurred vision. Flushing the eyes with warm water, cold compresses, and over the counter eye drops can often relieve symptoms; however, if they persist for more than a couple of hours, or if a thick discharge is present, you should see your eye doctor.

Swimming in lakes, ponds, rivers, and the ocean comes with its own risk – acanthamoeba, a single celled organism that can also be found in pools, hot tubs and drinking water. Although acanthamoeba keratitis infections are most common in those who wear prosthetic devices or contact lenses, anyone can develop the condition. Symptoms can vary, but may include eye pain, redness, blurry vision and light sensitivity.

To get the most out of the summer swim season, it is best to wear goggles that fit properly. This will keep your eyes from excess chlorine exposure and protect them from injury and infection.