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Dr. Lloyd's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support Dr. Lloyd has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Consider Yourself a Gym Rat?

Photo Credit: Thang Nguyen

How often do you workout?

Daily? Weekly? Seasonally?

Folks who head to the fitness club frequently are called gym rats. These athletes feel the burn every day – sometimes twice a day, yikes! I consider myself a gym mouse…maybe a gym gerbil. I try to find 45 minutes every every day for some exercise, alternating between running outdoors and moderate weight training.

A recent visitor to our WebMD Vision & Eye Disorder message board asked about eye irritation that was only experienced while exercising at the gym. I mentioned some possible culprits, but it got me thinking about how potentially hazardous fitness centers can be to the eyes. The more I thought about it the longer my list grew.

This blog was not posted to generate alarm or to discourage readers who want to become gym rats (or gym gerbils!). I just want to share some practical ideas regarding vision protection when exercising at a fitness facility.

  • Protective goggles + racquet sports: ‘Nuff said. Choose a durable polycarbonate product. Stay away from the ‘lensless’ goggles because the deformable, high-speed ball can still strike the eyeball.
  • Protective goggles + tanning booths: ‘Nuff said again. Tanning booths are unsafe but it’s hard to get some people to turn away. At the least they should shield their eyeballs.
  • Extreme weightlifting: Do not strain when handling barbells – keep breathing. The blood pressure skyrockets during heavy lifting…systolic readings often exceed 400mmHg (more than 3 times normal). Delicate retinal blood vessels can burst and wipe out your eyesight for months.
  • Swimming pools: Chlorine can make eyes red, but abnormal pool water pH is more likely to cause discomfort and blurriness due to superficial corneal edema.
  • Spas/Hot tubs: Stay away if you have had LASIK or if you are wearing contact lenses. Your cornea is like a culture plate just waiting for some germ to visit…like Acanthamoeba.
  • Stretch cords/PT straps and other elastic devices have a bad reputation for snapping back at your face. Also, put some space between you and other customers.
  • Physical contact: Don’t share towels and always wipe down apparatus before and after use. Other athletes are continuously coating the health clubs with their own germs. Protect yourself from unwanted colds and pinkeye.

What about yoga? I don’t know any eye hazards with yoga. How could you hurt your eyes in a Happy Baby pose?

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Posted by: Bill Lloyd MD at 12:01 pm

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