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August 06, 2020

Swim Goggles: Do I Need Them?

Statistically speaking, swimming is one of America’s favorite recreational activities. 36% of kids/teens and 15% of adults go swimming at least six times a year for exercise and enjoyment, but yet swim goggles are still seen as something for small children or professional swimmers. Pool water irritates everyone’s eyes, regardless of age or skill level, and streams, rivers, lakes and oceans are contaminated with microorganisms that can cause nasty infections. Every summer, optometrists see an influx of patients, particularly children, coming into the office with irritated eyes due to swimming without goggles. There’s an easy way to protect your eyes against irritation and potential infections -> swim goggles!  

What’s To Fear...Stats Time?

Even if the pool is properly disinfected, exposing your eyes to large amounts of chlorine will cause stinging, redness, and cloudy/blurry vision. Although salt water pools are easier on the eyes, they can be just as irritating after long amounts of time. For patients who wear contacts while they swim, a little bit of eye irritation is the least of their worries. According to aCDC report, about 500 disease outbreaks in treated recreational water were reported between 2001 and 2014. Not to freak you out or anything, but these outbreaks were responsible for more than 27,000 cases of infection and eight deaths in the US and Puerto Rico. 94% of the outbreaks were caused by pathogens (ex. E. coli), while the remainder were caused by chemicals in the water. Ew. So, where did people pick up this nastiness in the first place? 32% of outbreaks occurred in hotels, 23% in public community pools, 14% in clubs or recreational facilities, and 11% in water parks. With stats like these, it’s no wonder that the FDA has recommended that contact lenses not be exposed to ANY kind of water at all (including pools, natural bodies of water, hot tubs, showers, wells, or even the kitchen tap). Even if a pool or a hot tub has a disinfection system in place, bacteria in the water, such as legionella and adenovirus (pink eye),  can still adhere to contact lenses and cause major problems. Organisms can become attached to the contact lenses (NOPE), increasing the risk of corneal ulcers and other sight-threatening infections. Although rare, one particular infection, called acanthamoeba keratitis, is acquired through natural bodies of water. This corneal infection is caused by a free-living, microscopic ameba called Acanthamoeba and can cause permanent vision loss or blindness. If you must wear your contacts while swimming, tight-fitting goggles are 100% necessary. If water comes into contact with your lenses, they should be immediately removed and disinfected (if disposable, just throw them away). 

So, What Are Your Options?

Water-tight swim goggles are easy to find, but optometrists do offer prescription swim goggles to their patients if that’s what they’re looking for (this would be a great alternative for patients with glasses or contacts). If you aren’t in need of a prescription, you have a lot to choose from! Goggles can be kid-friendly, anti-fog, anti-glare, and tinted. Depending on how often and where you swim, you can decide which style suits your needs. If you’re swimming outside, look for some dark tinted goggles with UV protection (tinted glasses might be too dark for an indoor pool). 

Ensuring A Good Fit

There’s nothing worse than ill-fitting goggles that pinch or slide down your face, so testing the fit before you make a purchase is crucial. A good set of goggles should always press firmly and comfortably against your eyes. Without using the strap, release the goggles and make sure they stay stuck around your eyes for a few seconds. If they stick to your face, they’re a good fit. If they fall off right away, that’s going to be an issue. Another tip? If your eyelashes hit the lens of your goggles, they are not deep enough, so keep looking. The head strap should adjust so that it keeps them on your face while swimming, but you should NOT get a headache or deep rings around your eyes with a proper fit. For goggles with an adjustable nose strap, they should fit comfortably without rubbing or pushing into your nose. Just like people, goggle brands come in many different shapes and sizes, so don’t feel like you need to settle for a so-so fit. If you are one of the45 million people in the US who wears contacts, considerscheduling an appointmenttoday to find the perfect pair of prescription swim goggles, tailor-made to fit your needs.