Dry Eyes in the Water: Swimming is an effective way to keep in shape. During the summer it is a fun way to keep cool. But if you’re in the water a lot, whether in a local pool, nearby lake or salt water beach, you might notice that your eyes occasionally become itchy or feel gritty.
These uncomfortable sensations affect swimmers and surfers. They are signs of chemical conjunctivitis, better known as Pink Eye, and Swimmer’s and Surfer’s Dry Eye. In both conditions, the problem is usually temporary and easy to treat. If the condition lasts, professional help is advised.
Chemical conjunctivitis is called Pink Eye because of the reddening effects of inflammation on the white of the eye. The chlorine used in pools is the most common cause among swimmers, but air pollution and other chemicals in the environment also contribute.
The eye has a very thin layer of tissue that covers the white of the eye with a transparent film. Chemicals irritate this delicate membrane, causing inflammation in one or both eyes. Common symptoms include:
- watery eyes
- itchy feeling
- gritty feeling
- burning sensation
- swollen eyelids
- sensitivity to light
- blurred vision
In most cases the condition is easy to fix by pouring warm tap water or a saline solution over the surface of the eye. This helps flush away the chemicals causing the inflammation. Eye drops such as Crocodile Tears work well to stop the itching and burning. Cold compresses can help relieve irritation.
If you use contacts, don’t wear them until the inflammation, redness, and itchy, burning feeling are gone.
If these home remedies don’t solve the problem, the next step is a check up at the eye doctor, either an optometrist or ophthalmologist. This is especially important if a thick discharge is seeping out or if you have cloudy vision for more than a few hours.
Prevention is always the best approach, but it can be hard in public pools. The proper pH balance is easy to fix in a pool in your own yard but beyond your authority at the community pool. That’s why using swimming goggles is essential to keep your eyes out of direct contact with chlorine and other chemicals.
Swimmer’s and Surfer’s Eye
This condition is very similar to Pink Eye. It is caused by changes in the tear film, made up principally of water, which protects the eye. When its water content evaporates too fast, it creates an excess of salt. The result is discomfort and blurry vision. If it happens too often, the effects can become chronic.
What causes the over-evaporation is contact with chlorine in pools, the salt in the ocean and UV rays from the sun. The three main ways to prevent the problem are:
- drink 8 to 10 glasses of water on days you swim or surf
- use eye protection both in and out of the water
- make sure your tear film is well hydrated before and after a dip in the water
If you get Swimmer’s or Surfer’s Eye, you can use Crocodile Tears to add moisture to the eye and tear film.