ATLANTA, Ga. (May 2021) – Georgia’s eye experts are saying the nationwide shortage of chlorine for swimming pools may put the public’s vision at risk as owners get creative with how to clean their pools and inadvertently turn them into hosts of nasty parasites that can damage the eye.
“Exposing your eyes to swimming water is never a good idea, but this year’s nationwide shortage of chlorine may put thousands of people at risk of developing conditions that cause blindness or expose them to parasites that could cause damage to the eye,” said Dr. Jeanne Perrine, president of the Georgia Optometric Association. “Untreated water, or a pool with unbalanced chemicals, can expose a swimmer to a whole host of dangerous conditions. If water is not sanitized parasites can grow. If it’s overcorrected the chlorine level can severely irritate the eye.”
To protect consumers, the members of the Georgia Optometric Association are urging people to take simple steps that will protect the health of their eyes during the chlorine shortage:
+ wear swimming goggles to reduce contaminated water from touching your eye.
+ avoid rubbing your eyes to prevent damage to the soft tissue that covers the eye and helps prevent a microscopic parasite from entering.
+ limit touching the area around your eyes to decrease transmission of infectious microbes and irritating chemicals.
+ it is best to be very cautious and not wear contact lens while swimming as microscopic parasites such as acanthamoeba can get trapped under the lens and attack the cornea causing temporary or even permanent blindness. Throw away the pair you wore swimming if you forgot to take them out.
If you see floaters (small spots or lines) in your field of vision or experience sensitivity to light, crusting around the eyelids and eyelashes as well as redness and itching around the eye you may have been exposed to various microscopic infectious organisms in the water.
“Over-chlorinated water can cause toxicity if absorbed in and around the eye, including its surrounding tissues like the eyelids,” said Dr. Perrine. “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.”
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.
Symptoms can be 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.
For minor symptoms an artificial tear solution or ocular saline rinse agent will help provide temporary relief. Always follow up with your doctor of optometry for an in-person eye exam if your symptoms become worse, or your eyes continue to be red or irritated. These microscopic parasites and organisms can damage your eyes quickly and cause permanent scarring and vision loss within hours.
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.