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Don’t let pool chemicals ruin summer swims | Health

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Don’t let pool chemicals ruin summer swims
Health, News
Don’t let pool chemicals ruin summer swims

ATLANTA -- School is out and neighborhoods all across Georgia are opening their swimming pools for the season. To protect consumers, eye care experts are asking swimmers to be aware that an imbalance of chemicals in the water may put their vision and eye health at risk.

The Georgia Optometric Association is urging people to take simple steps that will protect the health of their eyes and help them avoid problems such as chemical conjunctivitis and chemical keratitis.

Having burning or itchy eyes after spending time in the water is a common problem experienced by those who swim in chlorinated pools. Caused by irritants such as chlorine, air pollution or chemical exposure, chemical conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin layer of transparent tissue that covers the white of the eye. When the symptoms include blurriness or haloes around lights, the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye) may be involved. Corneal irritation from the irritants in pool water would be termed chemical keratitis.

According to experts with the Georgia Optometric Association, people who experience chemical conjunctivitis and/or chemical keratitis from swimming are likely to display symptoms in both eyes. These symptoms can be manifested as a combination of gritty sensation, itching, burning and excessive tearing of the eyes. Discharge from one or both eyes is a common symptom, as are swollen eyelids, redness, light sensitivity and blurred vision.

“If you experience severe eye irritation for more than a few hours after swimming you should be evaluated by an eye care professional,” said Dr. Glenda Brown, president of the Georgia Optometric Association. “Chlorine irritation can result in the temporary redness and clouding of vision, but the symptoms are usually not long-lasting.”

“Everyone likes to look their best at the pool but don’t wear your contact lenses while swimming because lenses can trap or absorb pool water right next to the surface of the eye increasing the risk of infection,” said Dr. Brown. “Over-chlorinated water could elicit toxicity if absorbed in the lens on an eye. You should definitely consult your eye doctor if vision changes persist for more than an hour or two, or if there is a combination of redness and discharge, which are frequent signs of infection.”

For minor symptoms, artificial tears that are a gel formulation will help provide relief.

To prevent chemical conjunctivitis, experts suggest testing a home pool’s pH level more frequently. A pH level between 7.2 and 7.8 is the ideal range for eye comfort and for pool disinfection. Goggles and swim masks are a great way to protect against eye irritation by providing a barrier between the eyes and the potentially irritating chemical in pool water.

For more information about the Georgia Optometric Association, or to a find a local doctor of optometry when you experience conjunctivitis, please visit www.GOAeyes.com or www.Facebook.com/GeorgiaOptometricAssociation.

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