Essential Tips for Summer Eye Health

The weather is hot, the pools are open and the kids are getting out of school.  These are some of the signs of summer. Though most people think of summer as the time for fun and being care-free, be sure to consider a few simple tips to keep your eyes happy and healthy all season long.

Wear Sunglasses.  You already know that harmful UV rays of the sun can cause skin cancer, but it can also cause permanent eye damage such as cataracts, macular degeneration and yellowish growths on the front of the eyes.  In addition, certain medications like tetracyclines can increase your sensitivity to UV radiation.  Just like you use sunblock to protect your skin from the sun, you want provide protection for your eyes.  Purchase and wear sunglasses that are labeled to block 100% of UV rays. Not only will you safeguard your eyes, but it will make your vision more comfortable while helping you look really cool.

Swimming in Contact Lenses. We get a lot of questions about swimming in contact lenses.  In general, if you’re swimming in chlorinated water like a backyard pool then it is OK to swim in your lenses.  This is because chlorine does a great job killing bacteria.  However, it is recommended to keep your eyes closed under water unless you are wearing goggles or a mask to keep contact lens exposure to water and bacteria minimal.

Non-chlorinated environments like lakes or rivers do not have any protection against bacteria.  If your contact lenses absorb the bacteria and then you continue to wear the lenses for the rest of the day or several days you risk higher chance of eye infection. You should remove your contacts or wear lenses that you can throw away immediately after swimming to be safe.  Because of this, daily disposable contact lenses are a great option for trips down to the lake.  We have many patients wear monthly disposable contacts most of the year, but buy a small supply of daily disposable lenses for summer trips.

Treat hot tubbing like swimming in a lake.  Even though the water is chlorinated, the warm water temperature is a natural breeding ground for bacteria, thus a higher risk than swimming in a pool.  Remove your contacts before or throw them away immediately after enjoying the hot tub or sauna.

Cloudy Vision after Swimming.  Kids usually notice this more than adults and the reason is because they tend to open their eyes under water more than adults.  The cause is pool water being absorbed into the corneas by osmosis.  As that happens the cornea swells a bit and the vision gets cloudy or foggy.  Usually the cloudiness will fade over 30-60 minutes.

Eyes Red after Swimming.  This usually is the result of a pool that has too much chlorine.  The key point to consider is when the redness occurs.  If it is noticed towards the end of swimming or immediately after swimming is from the chlorine irritating the eyes.  This redness usually goes away on its own, but you can use some over the counter lubricating drops to help it go away faster.  If the redness occurs the day after swimming then it is probably an eye infection and you should see your eye doctor.

That kind of makes me think of the old sailor’s sailing but with a bit of modification:

Reds eyes after swimming, a sure sign of winning.
Red eyes at morning, swimmers take warning.

Well maybe I should save the poetry for Walt Whitman, but I think you get the idea.

So now that you are armed with tips to keep your eyes safe and healthy this summer, pour yourself a glass of lemonade, put on your sunglasses and enjoy your summer!



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