Protecting Your Eyes Out on Open Water: Tips for Ocean Adventurers

There are plenty of places to get out on open water in the United States. You could be on a boat ride off the coast of Hawaii, spending the weekend in the Ozarks, or surfing off the West Coast. Whatever you do, you'll have certain safety elements in mind because when you go out adventuring on open water, having fun isn’t the only thing you need to be thinking about. Since you’ll be exposing yourself to sunlight and marine microorganisms, water sports can be hard on your eyes.

Thus, WebMD advises individuals who intend to go swimming, diving, surfing, or participate in any type of aquatic activity to watch out for an eye condition called pterygium. More commonly known as surfer’s eye, pterygium is characterized by a growth of pink, fleshy tissue on the conjunctiva, which is the clear mucous membrane that covers the eyeball and lines the eyelids.

The growth usually starts on the side closest to the nose before extending toward the cornea, the eye's outer layer. Although surfers eye may sound concerning for your vision and overall eye health, there are fortunately numerous ways to protect your eyes and remain safe while on and under the water. Below, we take a look at some of them.

Wear Swimming Goggles

The tear film coating the surface of our eyes can be sensitive and tends to dry out when exposed to water for extended periods. Fortunately, wearing a pair of swimming goggles can help keep the tear film moist and prevent your eyes from being contaminated by salt water, sand, and lingering bacteria.

For those looking for a pair of swimming goggles to suit their specific vision needs, Lensmart has released a collection of 23 swimming goggles with varying designs and features, focusing on comfort, fit, and durability. There are open water goggles like Leonardo and Ivan, whose flat lens and nonadjustable nose bridge can provide greater flexibility and visibility, especially for beginners.

Reduce Glare Using Sunglasses

Even when you’re not submerged in the water and simply angling from your boat, you still need to protect your eyes from the harsh sunlight. A pair of sunglasses can help reduce glare but also make a serious fashion statement. One of the leading brands is Oakley sunglasses, and their reputation as sports providers mean they do a great job of keeping you safe and stylish while the sun’s out. The large frame of their M2 range is perfect for covering an average portion of your face while offshore fishing, with options for polarized lenses to offer full protection from the glare from the water.

You can also opt for prescription sunglasses if you want to focus on both style and vision correction. Another good option would be the Batwolf, which has a larger lens front that’s more suitable for insight fishing. Ultimately, wearing sunglasses helps prevent eye strain, irritation, and vision damage from ultraviolet rays, which is particularly important for anglers.

Ditch The Contacts

Although many people depend on contact lenses for vision correction, it can get tricky if you plan to use them while swimming. Besides the discomfort and the water possibly washing out your contacts, there’s the risk of eye infection if bacterial microorganisms get caught in the lens. As such, eye doctors recommend ditching the contacts and opting for prescription goggles or sunglasses if you need to enhance your vision when in the water.

Practice Proper Aftercare

Whether you went for a swim or surfed the waves, it’s best to practice proper aftercare by washing your face and eyes thoroughly. You may use a special cleanser, eyewash solution, or eye drops if you wish. However, ensure that the product you’re using is safe and approved for eye care, as there have been cases of products being recalled, like  EzriCare brand eye drops.

This artificial tears solution has been linked to eye infection, permanent vision loss, and even fatality after it was found to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Talk to your eye doctor first about which products you can safely use to clean your eyes and prevent them from drying.

Like any other adventure, going out in the open water comes with health and safety risks, including eye infection and vision damage. However, wearing protective eyewear and practicing proper eye care can go a long way in protecting and maintaining eye health, especially if you’re an ocean solo.

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