Eye care for swimmers is an important topic to those who experience stinging, itchy, irritated, red, dry, or otherwise irritated eyes after getting out of the water. This discomfort—possibly persisting for many hours—can be a real downside to a favorite activity.
Fortunately, common eye problems are fairly easy to prevent.
The Water and Your Eyes
Your eyes have a thin tear film on their surface that helps keep them properly lubricated and offers some protection. This film actually has three layers—water, protein, and lipid—that are naturally balanced to interact exactly as needed to keep the tear film from evaporating too quickly; this keeps your eyes lubricated.
Chlorine, salt, and other chemicals and compounds in the water disrupt the balance of the elements making up the tear film. This easily causes the film to evaporate faster than it should, thus leaving your eyes inadequately lubricated, and also less protected against the irritating chemicals and compounds in the water.
And that’s basically why a swim can leave your eyes dried out, itchy, and irritated.
Protecting Your Eyes During a Swim
The best way to prevent these effects should be obvious: goggles. Choose the right swim goggles to ensure that they stay put and keep water out. Then, you can swim and exit the pool or open water with your tear films still intact.
If you are suffering from dry or irritated eyes, use some artificial tear lubricating drops as directed on the package. If it’s a severe problem, you might benefit from prescription drops, so consult your ophthalmologist or primary care doctor.
It’s also helpful, as a basic part of eye care for swimmers and as an important health measure, to make sure that you’re well hydrated before and after your swim.
Also, if you wear contact lenses while you swim, consider getting prescription goggles to use instead. Contact lenses harbor chemicals and microbes after a swim, and bacterial growth occurs readily. This can exacerbate eye irritation, and even put you at risk for corneal ulcers and other complications. Disposable contact lenses are another option if you’re committed to wearing them during your swims.