A refreshing dip in the pool is one of the true joys of summer. At the same time, swimming is also a great exercise for staying healthy, without having to worry about the major impact on your joints like you get with a lot of other traditional exercises.

While many people are conscious of how swimming pool chemicals and natural water can affect the hair and the skin, swimming can also affect the eyes. This includes things like a classic case of “Swimmers Eye” which causes eye irritation and can even affect your vision.

If you’ve been struggling with eye issues after swimming, or you frequently swim as part of your normal exercise routine, you might be wondering about swimmer’s eyes and the things you can do to help take care of your eyes, without having to forgo your cherished time in the water.

What Is Swimmer’s Eye?

The term “Swimmer’s Eye” is often used to describe a combination of issues in the eyes caused by swimming. This includes tear film disruption, which is also known as “Dry Eyes” as well as things like chemical conjunctivitis which can be caused by poor swimming hygiene habits as well as frequent exposure to chlorine.

What Are The Symptoms Of Swimmer’s Eye?

Common symptoms of swimmer’s eye and chemical conjunctivitis can include the following:

  • A feeling of persistent irritation in or around the eyes
  • A burning sensation around the eyes
  • Redness in the whites of the eyes
  • Itchiness in the soft tissues around the eyes and eyelids
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye discharge
  • Swollen & inflamed eyelids

How Is Swimmer’s Eye Treated?

Most cases of swimmer’s eye are mild and can be treated at home. If you notice your vision is foggy and blurry, or you are experiencing the symptoms of irritation associated with swimmers eye you can flush your eyes with a cool eye rinse or try saline eye drops for quick relief. You might want to also try applying a cool compress from a cold wet washcloth laid over the eyes for further soothing.

If your eyes are having a more severe reaction to the chlorine, or other pool chemicals or you have been swimming in natural water such as a lake, river, or the sea, you might be developing a form of conjunctivitis. If symptoms persist after flushing your eyes, or worsen for the next day or two, you should contact your eye doctor for further advice.

Can Swimmer’s Eye Permanently Damage My Vision?

On its own swimmer’s eye or chemical, conjunctivitis won’t permanently damage your vision. Though Bacteria can grow on the lenses of your eyes after just one swim. Especially if you have been swimming in a natural body of water that has biological contaminants. Contact lenses wearers are even more likely to develop a potential infection since contact lenses sit in the eyes for an extended period of time. If your eyes are continuously exposed to chemicals, bacteria, or fungal contaminants in the water it can lead to a painful infection, corneal damage, and even loss of vision.

How To Prevent Swimmer’s Eye

Fortunately, there are a few commonsense things you can do to prevent swimmer’s eye. If you swim frequently for fun or as part of your weekly exercise routine, you might want to consider taking the following steps to prevent short-term and recurring problems with swimmer’s eye.

Remove Contacts Before Swimming

This will prevent water from becoming trapped under the contact lens on the cornea of the eye. It’s especially a good idea if you are going to be swimming frequently in natural bodies of water with potential biological contaminants.

Rinse Your Eyes After Swimming

Just a simple bottle of over-the-counter eye drops in your beach bag or backpack makes it easy to rinse your eyes after swimming. This can be especially helpful if you frequently swim in pools that have a high amount of chlorine or other pool chemicals.

Don’t Open Your Eyes Under Water

Opening your eyes underwater stings for a reason as it is actively irritating the sensitive cornea and other vulnerable soft tissues around the eye. It can also greatly increase your risk of developing chemical conjunctivitis, bacterial conjunctivitis, and other general conditions of swimmer’s eye.

Wear Goggles When Swimming

Goggles are a great way to protect your eyes from pool chemicals and biological contaminants in the water you swim in, as they create an additional boundary layer between the surface of your eye and eyelids and the water around you. They also give you the ability to open your eyes underwater if you need to retrieve something like a diving block or an accidentally dropped pair of sunglasses on the bottom of the pool.

Wear UV Protecting Sunglasses When Pool Side

The UV radiation from the strong summer sun is increased with the added reflection from the water’s surface. This can irritate your eyes compounding the effect of eye irritation caused by water and pool chemicals.

When Should I See A Doctor About Swimmer’s Eye?

If you are experiencing significant redness, prolonged discharge, or discomfort that doesn’t decrease with self-care, after a day or two, then you should consider contacting your eye doctor for further advice. In a more significant case, where you are experiencing blurred vision, swelling, significant discharge, or averse light sensitivity, you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible. These may be signs of an eye infection or damage to the cornea of the eye.


Swimmer’s eye is one of those things that is easy to dismiss at first. Though people who swim frequently in the summer, or who go into the pool multiple times a week for exercise, can experience recurring swimmer’s eye symptoms. The general discomfort can even impact your overall quality of life.

Taking simple steps such as wearing goggles when you swim and flushing your eyes out with some over-the-counter eye drops after swimming can go a long way toward preventing recurring problems with swimmer’s eye. If you are experiencing chronic symptoms associated with bacterial, viral, or chemical conjunctivitis, you should make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible.