Seeing in the Summertime
It's another of those hot central valley summers and many of us are choosing to keep cool by enjoying watersports. Boating, wave running and swimming are all excellent ways to beat the heat but there are a few things we all need to watch out for when it comes to our eyes and our eye health.
UV light exposure
UV light is electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths shorter than those of visible light. Overexposure to UV radiation can cause sunburn and even skin cancers. When it comes to your eyes, cumulative exposure to UV light has been associated with cataracts, macular degeneration and growths on the front of the eye and the eyelids. Some of these growths can be benign but others can be cancerous. It is also possible to get what is the equivalent of a sunburn on the front of the eyes after prolonged exposure. The eyes get very red, gritty and irritated the evening after exposure and it can be excruciatingly uncomfortable. Whenever you are outdoors, you should protect yourself from UV light exposure with sunscreen and the same goes for your eyes. Appropriate "sunscreen" for the eyes includes use of UV coated sunglass lenses or swim goggles. There are also products available for applying sunscreen safely to the eyelids. Colorescience (www.colorescience.com) makes a water resistant titanium oxide and zinc oxide powder with a brush applicator that is self contained and easy to use to protect the skin around the eyes. Remember, because light reflects off of the water surfaces, you can get up to twice the UV exposure when around water.
Chemicals and Bacteria
Nothing beats the heat like jumping in cool water during those dog days of summer. But keep inmind that pools and hot tubs can have large amounts of chlorine or bromine in them. Delta waterways can have all kinds of contaminants. Exposure to these chemicals for extended periods of time or in high concentrations can lead to redness, stinging and even chemical burns to the delicate structures of the eye. The tear layers that protect the front surface of the eye can also have their chemistry disrupted by these chemicals and that can also create discomfort. Also inherent in many swimming pools and even more so in hot tubs are bacteria that can be extremely dangerous to the health of the eye. Pseudomonas and Acanthamoeba infections are some of the most dangerous and difficult to treat infections and are more likely in contact lens wearers who are exposed to water. Wearing contact lenses during water sports can bedangerous in that contact lenses are little sponges that can soak up things from the environmentand then keep them in constant contact with the eye for long after.
If you are engaging in watersports, it is best if you avoid using contact lenses if possible. However, if your eyesight is poor enough, this may not be an option for you. In that case, it is recommended that you use a protective goggle over your contact lenses. (There are even prescription swim goggles available- ask our optical department) It is also recommended that single use daily disposable contact lenses be used in these situations so that they can be tossed away immediately after use to avoid prolonged exposure. At the very least, you should remove and thoroughly disinfect any contact lenses that have been used during watersports as soon as you are finished. Even if you are not wearing contact lenses, instilling artificial tears to the eyes after a day of watersportscan help return your tear layer to the right pH and chemistry to help promote more comfortableeyes and vision
Summertime is typically a time of relaxation and enjoyment. Watersports are a great way to cool off during a hot valley summer. Taking precautions when participating in summertime activities makes good sense. Make sure to take care of your eyes to keep you from having to make an unexpected trip to our office and disrupting your summer fun.