In general, unless you are wearing goggles it is best not to swim with your eyes open under water and, when possible, to avoid splashes of water into your eyes. This is because the various types of pool chemicals that are used for keeping the water clean and free of contamination may actually be irritating at a minimum and in some instances damaging to the surface of the eye. Maintaining the proper pH levels in swimming pools takes considerable monitoring and effort and as the pH varies so does the possibility of eye irritation. Your natural tears have a pH of 7.0, if the pH of the pool water is below or above that level that level, it will certainly cause your eyes to burn or sting. The proper pH level for swimming pools is in the range of 7.2 to 7.8. If the pH is maintained within this range, burning eyes shouldn't be a problem for swimmers.
For sure, if you plan on spending any lengthy period of time in the water you should protect your eyes by wearing goggles. “Swimming with contact lenses is very risky,” stated NJ Cornea Specialist Joel Confino, M.D. The eye health risk of swimming with contacts depends on the body of water you are in. “When swimming on lakes and in rivers there is a considerable risk of the microorganism Acanthamoeba to adhering to your contacts. Acanthamoeba Keratitis is a severe and potentially blinding infection and inflammation of the cornea. This same risk is present when wearing contacts in hot tubs or spas. While the risk of sight threatening infection is lesser in properly chlorinated swimming pools and the ocean, other problems may be encountered,” Dr. Confino further explained.
In the pool--eye irritation is possible when chlorine sticks on the surface of your lens and in the ocean--your contact lenses can be dislodged when you encounter large waves. You need to carefully consider whether to wear contact lenses while swimming. Keeping your head out of the water and wearing goggles will help to greatly reduce risk. “If you worry about not being able to see clearly without glasses or contacts and want to see clearly while in the pool or ocean, you may wish to consider LASIK as a vision correction method so as not to be dependent on eyeglasses or contacts for swimming,” said Dr. Confino.
If you or someone you know has questions about swimming, swimming pools, eye health, vision and contact lenses please feel free to call The Eye Care & Surgery Center at 908-789-8999, visit The Eye Care & Surgery Center or facebook.com/eyecareandsurgerycenter
The Eye Care & Surgery Center is staffed by a team of Board Certified NJ Ophthalmologists who are subspecialty Fellowship trained New Jersey eye surgeons, Opticians, technical and administrative staff who provide eye examinations for adults and children, surgery for cataracts, intraocular lens implants (IOL), laser vision correction such as LASIK, diagnosis and treatment of cornea disease including cornea transplants, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the retina including diabetes and age related macular degeneration (AMD) and diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma, reconstructive and cosmetic facial surgery including eyelid surgery and facial and skin rejuvenation as well as contact lenses, eyeglasses, eyewear and optical services.
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