Long days spent in the water are fun but they can leave swimmers with red and blurry eyes. Good thing you found this blog because we are going to explore why you get red eyes from swimming and how to avoid getting them again. From wearing swim goggles to using eye drops, we cover most preventative and aftercare methods to make sure your eyes don't suffer.
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Chlorinated Pools vs. Saltwater
Salt water gives you a more natural approach and can be safer for your eyes, skin, and hair. Pools that are sanitized with chlorine are also bacteria-free and generally safe since the chlorine will mix with the organic matter and kill any unhealthy bacteria. However, the downside of chlorinated pools is that they will create a chemical compound that can irritate your eyes and skin.
Why Eyes Turn Red from Swimming
Red eyes happen when the blood vessels at the surface of the eye become dilated and enlarged. The increased exposure to chemicals, such as chlorine, can cause irritation and make your eyes red.
Swimming Pools are hard on the tear film of the eyes. This is a thin layer of tears that coats the surface of the eyes. The tear film keeps the eyes moist, clear, and smooth. Chlorine and the other chemicals to keep water clean wash away the moist layer and leave eyes red and uncomfortable. Those that swim frequently can also develop a dry eye, where they wont produce enough tears or the right quality of tears. With this condition, it can feel like there is grit in the eyes and vision can become blurry. Without the protection of a functioning tear film, the eyes are exposed to the harmful pool chemicals and any bacteria that lingers. While chlorine can cause a reaction, the bacteria in the pool can cause infections, such as pink eye.
Other Causes of Eyes Turning Red
However, there can be other reasons why your eyes get red after going in the pool. According to the CDC, the problem can also be attributed to the urine in the water. Chlorine is used to kill the germs but when it binds with urine, it forms additional chemicals called chloramines. These chemicals can cause your eyes to be irritated.
If you wear contacts in the pool, the water could not only damage your lenses and possibly change their shape or wash them away, but there is also the possibility of bacteria contaminating the lenses. If bacteria contaminates your lenses, you can get an eye infection where one of the symptoms is red eye but will actually need treatment and won't go away on its own.
How to Relieve Your Red Eyes from Swimming
The best thing you can do to minimize red eyes and eye damage is to wear swim goggles in the pool. The swim goggles will need to be watertight to prevent any seepage. You should also remove your contacts if you wear them before entering the pool. If you still end up with redness, use something cool. If your eyes are red and start to itch after you get out of the pool, use a cool compress. You can also flush the eyes with cool and clean water.
Aftercare & Preventative Measures
While it can be easy to blame the pool water, there can be other causes of red eye, especially since bacteria can cause other eye problems. Its important to visit an eye doctor to determine the cause of the red eye so the correct treatment can be done. While some recommend that you can use eye drops to relieve red eye, it may not be the best course of treatment depending on your condition. Eye drops do work to shrink the blood vessels in the eye but you can develop a reliance on these drops in order to prevent redness from coming back. Any time you want to use eye drops, you should speak with an eye doctor because some drops may actually increase redness.
If you are just treating the redness, you could be delaying treatment for the cause of the redness and it can lead to further eye issues that may need more serious attention. You may have red eyes from allergies or another eye infection. In order to prevent red eyes from getting worse, don't wear your contact lenses until the red eye stops, always clean lenses correctly, never reuse any disposable lenses, and be sure to wash hands often and don't touch eyes in order to prevent any infection.