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Cancer survivor and world-champion Irish dancer raises money for hospital that saved her life

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Cancer survivor and world-champion Irish dancer raises money for hospital that saved her life

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After fighting for her life twice, Megan Stuart, 20, is using a personal victory as a springboard for giving back to the hospital that saved her.

The Minneapolis woman has already faced her share of challenges.

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Stuart and her twin brother were born eight weeks early. Then, at just 4 months old, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, she said. 

CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS: HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT A PARENT WHO HAS A CHILD WITH CANCER

Years later, just as she was on the verge of achieving her life’s goal in Irish dancing, the COVID pandemic shut down her favorite sport. 

Even so, in an on-camera interview with Fox News Digital, Stuart referred to herself a number of times as “lucky.” (See the video at the top of this article.)

Megan Stuart, 20, of Minneapolis, was recently crowned world champion at the 2024 CLRG World Championships of Irish dance, right. She’s using her win to raise money for the cancer charity that helped her as an infant, left.  (Courtesy Megan Stuart/Shamrock Photography)

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She was lucky, she said, that Children’s Minnesota — the hospital where she and her brother spent 40 days in the NICU after their premature birth — had the facilities and know-how to treat an infant with stage 3 neuroblastoma. 

And now she is lucky, she added, that she’s been given a platform to give back to it.

After nearly a decade of attempts and close finishes, Stuart was crowned the world champion in Irish dance last March at the CLRG World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. The CLRG is the world’s largest and oldest Irish dance governing body.

“I think it would be really great to do something to just give back.”

Celebrating a victory with a large party with family and friends is customary, but Stuart is marking her championship by raising money for the Cancer Kids Fund at Children’s Minnesota, a charity close to her heart. 

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CHILDHOOD CANCER SURVIVOR BECOMES NURSE AT HOSPITAL THAT HELPED SAVE HER

“This is something I’ve been thinking about [doing] for a really long time, before I even won — I was like, ‘Wow, I think it would be really great to do something to just give back,’” Stuart told Fox News Digital in an on-camera interview. 

“I feel really, really lucky to not only have had Children’s Minnesota in my life, but also to have survived cancer and to have their entire team … contribute to saving my life, and then … to have a great dance community,” she said.

Fighting for her life

Stuart’s mother first noticed something was off with her newborn daughter shortly after the doctors released her baby from the NICU.

“I think it was after a couple of weeks, [my mother] was like, ‘Something’s just not right. Megan’s not quite matching up with John in terms of traditional development,’” Stuart recounted to Fox News Digital. “There were some weird illness-like symptoms going on.” 

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HIGH-SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE MAKING STRIDES IN CANCER RESEARCH: ‘GIVES ME HOPE’

Tests for common illnesses such as RSV and flu came back negative. But Stuart’s mother “just kept insisting that something was wrong.” 

After more rounds of testing, Stuart’s markers indicated that she had stage 3 neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that develops in nerve tissue. 

Her doctors were stunned, even re-running the tests to ensure the results were not a fluke. 

outside of Children's Hospital

Stuart and her twin brother spent 40 days in the NICU at Children’s Minnesota after they were born prematurely. The Stuart family then found themselves back at the same hospital after her cancer diagnosis. (Children’s Minnesota)

Dr. Susan Sencer, vice president of chief specialty pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, was Stuart’s oncologist. 

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“I have had the privilege of witnessing some truly remarkable journeys, Megan’s being one of them,” she told Fox News Digital in an interview.

After her diagnosis, “Megan faced an incredibly challenging start to life,” Sencer said, noting that “her resilience and determination throughout treatment were extraordinary.” 

MOM’S RAW POST ON CHILDHOOD CANCER GOES VIRAL: ‘IT AFFECTS THE ENTIRE FAMILY’

The medical team faced unique challenges in treating Stuart, who was extremely small due to her premature birth.

While Stuart said the harsh chemotherapy drugs “majorly affected” her development, she has not had any significant long-term health impacts, which she called “unbelievable.” 

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“They always look for major heart defects, and [chemotherapy] can really affect your hearing, too,” she said, which, for an Irish dancer, would prove disastrous. 

baby with nasal cannula split with woman in irish dance dress doing a jump

Stuart, shown in both images above, was diagnosed with stage 3 neuroblastoma before she was 5 months old. The chemotherapy she received as an infant does not appear to have had any lasting health effects. (Courtesy Megan Stuart/Shamrock Photography)

For two years after the diagnosis, the Stuarts “basically lived” at Children’s Minnesota, she said, during which time they “benefited greatly” from the Cancer Kids Fund.

The fund provides child care for patients’ siblings, plus arts and crafts programs and other services outside the medical setting.

With her fundraiser, Stuart is aiming to help other families facing situations similar to what she went through years ago.

NOVEL CANCER TREATMENT OFFERS NEW HOPE WHEN CHEMO AND RADIATION FAIL: ‘BIG CHANGE IN PEOPLE’S LIVES’

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Stuart regards her championship win as an opportunity to tie together two key communities in her life, cancer survival and Irish dance.

‘Dead set on winning’

Stuart began taking Irish dance classes at Corda Mór Irish Dance in Edina, Minnesota, at age 4, following in her older sister’s footsteps. (In Gaelic, “Corda Mór” means “great heart.”)

“In typical little sister fashion, I just wanted to be like her,” she told Fox News Digital. “I thought she was the best dancer I’d ever seen.” 

At the time she laced up her first pair of dance shoes, Stuart had just been declared cancer-free, something she said was a “cool coincidence.”

two little girls in Irish dancing outfits

Megan Stuart, left, started dancing because she wanted to be like her older sister, Molly Stuart, right. She won her first regional title at the age of 10.   (Courtesy Megan Stuart)

Right away, she set a goal to win a world title. 

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“As soon as I knew … what the world championships were, I was dead set on winning,” she said. “Not because I was like, ‘Oh, I need to win,’ but I just thought how cool it would be.” 

While Stuart quickly experienced success at the regional level, winning her first local championship in 2014 at age 10, she was a long way from winning a world title. 

Right away, she set a goal to win a world title. 

In 2020, Stuart finally won a major international competition – the All-Ireland Championships – and seemed well on her way to achieving the goal she’d set as a child.

Then, just weeks later, the 2020 world championships were canceled due to the COVID pandemic. The 2021 world championships were called off as well. 

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Undeterred, Stuart kept training — and in 2022, she placed second at the world championships. While she was thrilled with the outcome, she believed she had the potential to win.  

SOME BREAST CANCER PATIENTS COULD BE AT RISK OF ANOTHER TYPE OF CANCER, STUDY REVEALS

In 2023, Stuart again placed second at the world championships. 

“Being so close to the top so many times, it really pushed me over the edge to my very best level,” she said. 

Instead of focusing on winning, she centered her training on “finding reason within dancing” and performing for the love of it. 

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On March 29, 2024, Stuart’s dream became a reality. As the announcer at the world championships announced the second-place dancer – it was not Stuart – she jumped to her feet, screaming.

Fauna Gille, co-owner of Corda Mór Irish Dance, told Fox News Digital it was clear from the beginning that Stuart was a champion in the making.

“To win Worlds became Megan’s dream, but it’s the journey to get there that has given us the memories of a lifetime,” Gille said in an email.

“Megan has shown us what ‘great heart’ means throughout this journey, through her kind spirit, perseverance, passion for her craft, and steady and strong nature through the many ups and downs of both Irish dancing and life,” she said.

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Stuart, said Gille, “is a role model for her peers, and an inspiration to her teachers and so many others.” 

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Sencer, Stuart’s oncologist, agreed with that. 

“I’m not surprised she’s now a world champion dancer,” she said. “Her transformation from a tiny patient battling cancer to a celebrated dancer on the global stage is a testament to her incredible strength, perseverance and passion for life.”

outside of Children's Hospital

“Her transformation from a tiny patient battling cancer to a celebrated dancer on the global stage is a testament to her incredible strength, perseverance and passion for life,” Dr. Susan Sencer, Stuart’s oncologist, told Fox News Digital. (Children’s Minnesota)

Stuart’s triumph, said Sencer, is “a powerful reminder that with courage and support, it is possible to overcome even the most daunting obstacles and achieve greatness.”

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The doctor added, “Megan’s journey inspires hope and proves that life after cancer can be full of vibrant possibilities.”

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health

For her part, Stuart said, “Standing on the podium during that award ceremony, I was like, ‘Wow, this is so meaningful.’”

She went on, “My life is truly incredible, and I just feel – there’s no better word for it – so incredibly lucky.”

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Artificial intelligence detects cancer with 17% more accuracy than doctors in UCLA study

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Artificial intelligence detects cancer with 17% more accuracy than doctors in UCLA study

Artificial intelligence is outpacing doctors when it comes to detecting a common cancer in men.

A new study from UCLA found that an AI tool identified prostate cancer with 84% accuracy — compared to 67% accuracy for cases detected by physicians, according to a press release from the university.

Unfold AI, made by Avenda Health in California — a software recently cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — uses an AI algorithm to visualize the likelihood of cancer based on various types of clinical data. 

WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?

In the study, a team of seven urologists and three radiologists analyzed 50 cases where tumors had been removed, looking for signs of residual cancer. 

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A few months later, the AI software performed the same analysis.

A new study from UCLA found that an AI tool identified prostate cancer with 84% accuracy — compared to 67% accuracy for cases detected by physicians. (iStock)

The “negative margin rate” — a medical term that describes the absence of cancer cells surrounding the removed tissue — was 45 times greater in AI-detected cases, so the chances of cancer being left behind was far less.

Ali Kasraeian, M.D., a urologist at Kasraeian Urology in Jacksonville, Florida, said he uses the Unfold AI technology in his consultations with patients about managing their prostate cancer.

AI COULD PREDICT WHETHER CANCER TREATMENTS WILL WORK, EXPERTS SAY: ‘EXCITING TIME IN MEDICINE’

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“The AI takes the information that we currently have about a patient’s prostate cancer — like their pathology, imaging and biopsy results — and creates a 3D cancer estimation map,” he told Fox News Digital via email.  

“The results we get from Unfold AI tell us if a patient will be better suited for focal therapy or more radical therapy, such as radical prostatectomy, or radiation therapy, ensuring we optimize their cancer cure, the personalization of their cancer care, and their quality of life goals.”

“AI is our new diagnostic ally — but like any tool, it works best in human hands.” 

Based on these findings, the AI could lead to more accurate diagnoses and more targeted treatments, reducing the need for full-gland removal and the side effects that can come with it, such as incontinence and impotence, the researchers wrote.

AI MODEL COULD HELP PREDICT LUNG CANCER RISKS IN NON-SMOKERS, STUDY FINDS: ‘SIGNIFICANT ADVANCEMENT’

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Joshua Trachenberg, PhD, is a professor of neurobiology at UCLA — and also a prostate cancer patient himself. After doctors found a slow-growing tumor on his prostate, they recommended removing the gland surgically — but he decided to explore other options.

“I got in touch with a team at UCLA, where I also am a faculty member, that was exploring alternate treatments to total gland removal,” Trachenberg, 56, told Fox News Digital via email.

Prostate model

The “negative margin rate” — a medical term that describes the absence of cancer cells surrounding the removed tissue — was 45 times greater in AI-detected cases, so the chances of cancer being left behind was far less. (iStock)

The UCLA researchers were testing an approach that uses ultrasound to heat tissue and is “focally guided” by MRI to destroy the cancerous tissue without damaging the rest of the gland, he said.

After some imaging scans, it was determined that Trachenberg was a candidate for the experimental therapy.

AI TECH AIMS TO DETECT BREAST CANCER BY MIMICKING RADIOLOGISTS’ EYE MOVEMENTS: ‘A CRITICAL FRIEND’

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“The 3D map created by Unfold AI enabled this team to identify precise margins, target the cancerous area and avoid any functional structures of the gland,” he said. 

“It was able to visualize my cancer and it gave me a much better understanding of my case.”

“It was truly able to visualize my cancer and it gave me a much better understanding of my case.”

Trachenberg is now cancer-free and was able to avoid a radical prostatectomy.

Man cancer treatment

“I would recommend to any prostate cancer patient who is told they need a radical prostatectomy that they take some time to look at all their options, [including] AI technologies,” said a doctor and patient (not pictured).  (iStock)

“So many men are afraid of treatment because of the risks associated with gland removal, and Unfold AI enables therapies that don’t put men through the meat grinder,” he said.

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This type of AI technology gives Trachenberg hope for the future of prostate cancer treatment, he told Fox News Digital.

      

“Too often, we are given only two options: Watch and wait for it to get worse, or take the entire gland out, which often leaves men with lifelong side effects that strain their physical health, emotional health and even their marriages,” he said.

“I would recommend to any prostate cancer patient who is told they need a radical prostatectomy that they take some time to look at all their options, [including] AI technologies.”

Potential risks, limitations

Dr. Harvey Castro, a board-certified emergency medicine physician and national speaker on artificial intelligence based in Dallas, Texas, was not involved in the new study but shared his insights on the potential risks associated with the technology.

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Dr. Harvey Castro

Dr. Harvey Castro, a Dallas, Texas-based board-certified emergency medicine physician and national speaker on artificial intelligence, shared his insights on the potential risks associated with the technology. (Dr. Harvey Castro)

“The accuracy of AI depends heavily on the quality of the data it is trained on,” he told Fox News Digital. “Poor data can lead to inaccurate diagnoses.”

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Castro also cautioned against an “overreliance” on AI.

“While AI is a powerful tool, it should complement, not replace, the clinical judgment of health care professionals,” he said.

“AI is our new diagnostic ally,” Castro added. “But like any tool, it works best in human hands.” 

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AI health care

“While AI is a powerful tool, it should complement, not replace, the clinical judgment of health care professionals,” an expert said. (iStock)

Privacy should also be considered when using this type of technology, according to Castro.

“Handling sensitive patient data with AI necessitates stringent data protection measures to maintain patient trust and confidentiality.”

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The cost of AI technologies can also be a significant barrier, added Kasraeian.

“I hope this study encourages us and future payers to make these innovations more accessible to urologists and, most importantly, to our patients.”

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Joe Biden with COVID at age 81: What to know about the risk the virus poses to older adults

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Joe Biden with COVID at age 81: What to know about the risk the virus poses to older adults

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President Joe Biden’s testing positive for COVID-19 this week may spark questions about how the virus affects older adults in America.

Certain populations are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID — and older adults top that list, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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On Wednesday, the White House released an announcement of Biden’s positive COVID test, noting that the president had been vaccinated and boosted and was “experiencing mild symptoms.”

AMID SUMMER COVID SURGE WARNING FROM CDC, SHOULD YOU WORRY? DOCTORS WEIGH IN

His upper respiratory symptoms included “rhinorhea (runny nose) and non-productive cough, with general malaise,” according to a statement on the White House’s website.

Here’s what people should know. 

On Wednesday, the White House released an announcement about President Biden’s positive COVID test, noting that the president had been vaccinated and boosted and was “experiencing mild symptoms.” Biden is 81 years old. (Getty Images)

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COVID prognosis for the elderly

More than 81% of COVID-related deaths affect those age 65 and older, the CDC states on its website — and the number of older people who succumb to the virus is 97 times higher than those who are 18 to 29 years old. 

Dr. Norman B. Gaylis, a Florida physician and COVID expert, agreed that adults over 80 years old comprise the highest-risk group for mortality, as they face “multiple significant risks.”

COVID VACCINE COMPANIES TOLD TO FOCUS ON KP.2 VARIANT FOR FALL SHOTS, PER FDA ANNOUNCEMENT

“COVID causes debilitating problems for the elderly, especially if there is a pre-existing neurological condition such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease,” he told Fox News Digital via email. (He has not examined or treated Biden.)      

A diagnosis of acute COVID can affect the ability of those in this age group to think properly, and often causes a condition known as “brain fog,” he said. 

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“It is a problem, because the elderly are often more susceptible to COVID due to weakened immune systems,” he said.

Best practices after a diagnosis

When someone over age 80 tests positive for the virus, the first course of action is to go into some degree of isolation, Gaylis said.

“It is also important [that people] stay well-hydrated and be cautious not to overexert themselves,” he said. 

Paxlovid medication

Paxlovid, Pfizer’s anti-viral medication to treat COVID-19, is displayed in this picture illustration taken on Oct. 7, 2022. Doctors recommend that older adults seek “proactive treatment.” (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/Illustration)

If symptoms last more than 48 hours, the doctor calls for “proactive treatment.”

Take Paxlovid or approved nutraceuticals with zinc that boost the immune system,” he recommended. 

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If symptoms do not decrease after 36 hours — or if symptoms are severe — the patient should seek medical attention right away.

COVID test

More than 81% of COVID-related deaths affect those age 65 and older, the CDC says on its website — and the number of older people who succumb to the virus is 97 times higher than those who are 18 to 29 years old.  (iStock)

“With those in their 80s, it is crucial to check and make sure major organs are not being affected,” Gaylis said. 

Regarding Biden’s case of COVID, Gaylis said that only the president’s personal physician can speak to his condition and outlook for recovery. 

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“But we should certainly be more concerned about his condition than we would be with someone much younger — and because of his age, we also have to be aware of the risk of long-term health consequences,” he added.

“The elderly are often more susceptible to COVID due to weakened immune systems.”

As of Friday, Biden had completed his fourth dose of Paxlovid and “continues to tolerate treatment well,” according to an updated statement issued from the White House.

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“His loose, non­productive cough and hoarseness continue to be his primary symptoms, but they have improved meaningfully from yesterday,” the statement said.

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Biden will be 82 years old in Nov. 2024. 

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Ask a doctor: ‘Is it safe to swim underwater with my eyes open?’

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Ask a doctor: ‘Is it safe to swim underwater with my eyes open?’

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Hot summer days include plenty of pool or beach time for many people — but it’s important to stay safe while swimming.

While it may be tempting to open your eyes underwater, experts warn that prolonged exposure could put your vision at risk.

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Fox News Digital spoke with Brian Boxer Wachler, M.D., an ophthalmologist in Beverly Hills, California, who is also a medical reviewer with All About Vision, an online resource, about what happens when people take a peek while swimming.

ASK A DOCTOR: ‘WHY ARE MY EYES OFTEN BLOODSHOT?’

A quick glance likely won’t be harmful, the expert said — but extended periods of underwater peeping could cause problems.

“Usually when people open their eyes underwater, the [eyes] begin to feel irritated and they will close their eyes pretty quickly,” Wachler said. 

It may be tempting to open your eyes underwater, but experts warn that prolonged exposure could put your vision at risk. (iStock)

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When swimming in pool water, the chlorine can irritate the eyes, he warned.

Chlorine can cause damage to the outer layer cells that protect the cornea, Dr. Muriel Schornack, a Mayo Clinic optometrist in Minnesota, stated on the clinic’s website.

NEBRASKA BABY BORN WITH CATARACTS HAS 3 EYE SURGERIES TO SAVE HER SIGHT: ‘I JUST KEPT PRAYING’

As a result, the eye may become red, irritated or sensitive to light, the doctor warned. 

You may also notice blurred vision.

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Man swimming underwater

Swimming in saltwater or untreated freshwater can potentially introduce bacteria into the eyes, a doctor said. (iStock)

“A lot of folks who are highly nearsighted or highly farsighted like to wear their contact lenses while they’re swimming — and if chlorine soaks into those lenses, now you’ve got a reservoir of chlorine on the surface of the eye that’s likely to do damage,” Schornack noted on Mayo Clinic’s site.

ASK A DOCTOR: ‘WHY AM I HEARING MY HEARTBEAT IN MY EARS?’

With saltwater or untreated freshwater, the effects can be even harsher, and can potentially introduce bacteria into the eyes, Wachler warned.

blue eye contact lens

For people who wear contacts while swimming, chlorine can soak into the lenses and cause problems, a doctor said. (iStock)

“Microscopic organisms are found in various bodies of water, and can be both beneficial and harmful,” he said.

Bacteria such as E. coli can thrive in contaminated freshwater, while saltwater teems with decomposers like Vibrio, according to the ophthalmologist.

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“Viruses like those causing hepatitis A can linger in polluted water,” he said. 

“Protozoa such as Giardia can cause diarrhea if ingested from untreated sources, while molds like Aspergillus may be found in damp areas around freshwater.”

Signs that you should see a doctor

If you’ve been swimming with your eyes open for an extended period, watch out for signs of irritation like redness, itchiness and a burning sensation, Wachler advised. 

Woman swimming

For those who want to look underwater while swimming, experts recommend wearing goggles to protect the eyes.

“You might also experience watery eyes or increased sensitivity to light,” he said. 

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“These are usually temporary and go away on their own.”

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If you notice a thicker discharge, have trouble seeing or experience severe pain, it could be a sign of infection and warrants a trip to the doctor.

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For those who want to look underwater while swimming, experts recommend wearing goggles to protect the eyes.

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