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Going for a Swim After Eye Surgery or with a Chronic Eye Disease

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Whether you’re a swimmer or enjoying a leisurely dip in the pool, we can all agree with the uncomfortable stinging and burning sensation of “swimmers eye.” The majority of frequent swimmers complain about this eye irritation or “swimmers eye.” While swimming can be a healthy form of exercise because it’s easy on the joints, it can have the opposite impact on your eyes.

Pool Chemicals on Your Eyes

Every time we blink, a protective coating of tears are spread like a film over the anterior portion of our eyes called the tear film. Tears are important for the overall health of our vision and eyes, so it’s very crucial we protect our tear film. If our tear film is unstable, symptoms of dry eye or an eye infection can occur.

Chlorine and saline are some of the chemicals used for disinfecting pools. These chemicals can have a harmful effect on the tear film. By washing the moisture away, the eye is left unlubricated and exposed for other chemicals and bacteria in the pool to enter your eye. Chlorine itself is a major irritant to the eye causing chemical conjunctivitis- a toxic inflammatory condition that causes swelling, redness, decreased vision, and severe pain that is uncomfortable.

Swimming Post Eye Surgery

Nowadays many eye surgeries have required minimal anesthesia, while being minimally invasive with a benign recovery. However, surgical incisions create an artificial opening between the external and internal environment of the eye. During the early postoperative period, first six weeks after surgery, incisions are still healing and exposure to chemicals or infections can lead to serious consequences such as permanent loss of vision. Depending on the type of surgery, you may need to avoid swimming for some time, even after your wound has healed. Speak to your ophthalmologist in regards to when you can swim again.

Does Swimming Affect Chronic Eye Diseases?

There have been concerns on whether swimming coincided with the progression of chronic eye conditions such as cataracts, dry eye, or glaucoma or retinal diseases such as macular degeneration. There has not been any definitive scientific evidence that indicates swimming does affect the progression of chronic eye conditions. However, this doesn’t disregard that harsh pool chemicals can lead to short-term effects on the eye.

Protect your eyes

Minimizing your exposure to harmful pool chemicals is the best way to protect your eyes health. A good form of protection can be wearing goggles to prevent chemicals from entering your eyes and keeping your tear film healthy. After taking a swim, rinsing your eyes with fresh water to get rid of the chlorine and other chemicals off your eyelashes and eyelids. Another way to keep your eyes healthy is using over the counter eye drops before and after you swim to restore the composition of a healthy tear film. 

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