Splish Splash! The Effects of Swimming Underwater with Open Eyes

Posted in Optometry Information

Whether you’re an adult or a child, swimming goggles make underwater viewing so much more enjoyable. If you’re a recreational or competitive swimmer, or just a concerned parent, the importance of swimming goggles for eye protection safety is absolutely vital. We all know that swimming without goggles and opening your eyes underwater in pools can leave you with red eyes, but there can be more serious consequences, regardless of where you swim.

  • Exposure to potential irritation from water contaminants. Swimming pools contain chemicals, and other debris that can be harmful to the delicate human eye. In a lake or the ocean, you are faced with arguably more containments, with wildlife and nature to contend with. Even the smallest pH imbalances, as shown in a study illustrated in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, can cause damage to the cornea. This study encouraged those who are planning on swimming underwater to wear swimming goggles for the best level of eye protection. If you do swim with your eyes open, be sure to rinse them with clean water.

  • Increased chances of eye scratches and bruises. While the pH balance of the water is an important eye safety factor, it’s also possible to receive a physical scratch from sand, silt, dirt, or any number of small particles. They may brush against your open eyes while swimming, or be stuck under the eyelid when you blink. Regardless, not only is it a painful and annoying process, eye scratches can lead to infections that may impair vision.

  • More susceptible to UV damage without swimming goggles. Eyes are just as prone to sun damage as any other part of the body, especially when you swim in open water. The surface of the water has a tendency to reflect sunlight more strongly with the potential to cause more damage in a shorter period of time. Extended exposure to direct sunlight can cause sunburned eyes, solar retinopathy, and even temporary vision loss. Swimming goggles that are tinted or have UV protection, help provide maximum eye protection.

  • Sunburn from prolonged exposure to the sun. Not only is this unpleasant, the results from a sunburn to the eyes can be detrimental to your long-term vision. Adequate eye protection in the form of swimming goggles can help prevent symptoms and permanent damage.

  • Increased chance of eye infection when swimming with open eyes. Swimming underwater with open eyes leaves you more prone to infections than swimming with closed eyes or wearing goggles. As mentioned above, scratches on the delicate surface of the eye can become infected easily and illnesses spread easily in the water. Additionally, if you wear contacts you run the risk of losing one.


For more information on how to protect you and your family’s eyes from the summer sun, or
to ask about our exams, contact us today and we’re happy to help!

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