It may come as a surprise that the main cause of eye problems after swimming is uncleanliness. Many people believe their discomfort stems from a high chlorine level in the pool, but this is far from the truth. While chlorine does play a part in eye pain and dryness after swimming, the real culprit is chloramines. Chloramines are produced when chlorine reacts with other substances in the pool, such as bacteria, sweat, and ammonia from urine. When these chloramines start to overpower the chlorine they'll irritate your eye, drying out your tear film (the lining over your eye) and causing dryness, pain, and discomfort. The damaged tear film can also expose your eye to more bacteria, leading to infections.
If you find your eyes are suffering from these problems after swimming, follow these 5 tips to keep them healthy.
The most common tip for keeping your eyes comfortable in the pool is to wear goggles. Goggles are made to help you see underwater while protecting your eye from the chemicals and bacteria. A high-quality, close-fitting pair of goggles will keep chloramines at bay, enabling you to swim without discomfort or risk of infection.
Rinse Your Eyes
If your eyes come into contact with pool water at any time while you swim, it's important that you rinse them with fresh water when you leave the pool. This will stop bacteria and chemicals from lingering on your eyes and continuing to hurt your tear film.
Another way to use water to keep your eyes healthy is to stay hydrated before and after swimming. Drinking water helps keep the aqueous layer of tear film in good condition so it's more resistant to the drying effects of chloramines.
If you're a contact lens user, you may want to avoid wearing them in the pool. Many people think contacts will protect their eyes from chloramines, but their surface can be an ideal place for bacteria from the pool to latch on and grow. Contacts can also become brittle in pool water, leading to further discomfort. Even if you wear goggles, contacts are best avoided. The suction that keeps the goggles on your face can pull contacts and dislodge them. Instead, why not opt for prescription swimming goggles? Your optometrist will be able to advise you on which pair is best for you. If you'd prefer to use contacts, make sure you rinse them thoroughly when you leave the pool, or switch to disposable lenses.
Sometimes the pool itself is the biggest cause of your eye discomfort. Some pools are cleaner than others, and dirtier pools equal poorer eye health. However, don't be fooled into thinking that a strong chemical smell in a pool means it's cleaner. The strong smell is actually caused by high chloramine levels, meaning strong smelling pools are filled with more bacteria. Try to opt for a pool with a more neutral smell. Pools which require users to shower before entering or are for adults only are also more likely to be clean. You may also find that saltwater pools are easier on your eyes due to lower chlorine levels.
If you're experiencing persistent eye discomfort, pain, or infections in or out of the pool, make sure you get an eye exam at your earliest convenience. An eye doctor can help diagnose and treat the issue, or provide lubricating eye drops to help with dryness.