The sea and swimming pool: risks for the eyes
Infections, irritation and trauma are the most common problems to increase in the summer months, mainly due to exposure to seawater, swimming pool water and water sports.
The majority of the problems associated with swimming—particularly allergies to chlorine or saltwater—go away by themselves or with suitable topical treatment.
When it comes to catching an infection, swimming pool water usually poses a greater risk than seawater. The most common infections found in swimming pools—such as pseudomonas or acanthamoeba—are microorganisms than thrive best in fresh water, although they may also be found in seawater. To minimise the risk, in addition to treating your swimming pool water appropriately, it is important to protect your eyes. Which is why we recommend you use approved diving or swimming goggles, when practising sport in the pool and on the water.
One fundamental precaution you can take is to avoid swimming while wearing contact lenses, especially in swimming pools, and never swim in ponds or places with unsuitable water chlorination levels as, even though these infections are infrequent, they may, in fact, have serious consequences. This is why we should take extra precaution concerning contact lens cleaning and proper treatment of pool water.
If you prefer lying on the beach and being by the sea, then the risks to be considered are different. Aside from mild irritation, the biggest risk we face in the water is getting stung in the eye by a jellyfish or another aquatic animal. Their stings usually affect the eyelids, but occasionally they may affect the cornea or conjunctiva, causing a chemical burn that must be treated by an ophthalmologist.
Very few incidences of eye trauma occur in water sports, but we do see cases of trauma caused by broken diving goggle glass. Nowadays this is quite unlikely to occur, since they must be made from toughened glass—which is why it’s important to wear approved goggles. When it comes to scuba diving, a common complaint is a subconjunctival haemorrhage, a ruptured blood vessel in the eye due to changes in pressure. It does not usually have any consequences other than the fact that it is unsightly, but it normally clears up itself within a few days.
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