March 25, 2023
Face masks cause dry eyes

Face masks cause dry eyes! How true is this statement?

We are all fighting the ongoing pandemic together. Hope you are being a good sport and wearing your mask whenever you are out and about. No matter if you have become used to covering your face in the public, face masks aren’t going anywhere soon.

Although a face mask is one of the easiest ways to dodge virus transmission, several clinical reports have shown ocular dryness and irritation in people who wear face masks rather frequently.

Professionals are naming this problem ‘mask associated dry eye’ or  MADE. People who wear face coverings for a longer period of time are more likely to experience the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eyes and irritation.

So, is there any truth to this claim? If yes, then what are the preventive measures to keep your eyes from running dry? Let’s get right into science.

How do face masks lead to dry eyes?

When thinking about the many possibilities behind mask associated dry eyes, our mind instantly put the blame on limited ventilation and airflow. It’s true that if your mask doesn’t fit properly around your nose when you breathe out, the breath will flow upward and reach the surface of your eyes. It can dry out the thin liquid layer that stores tears.

Due to your warm breath flowing upwards, the delicate tears evaporate quickly. It strips your eyes off lubrication leaving them sore and dry.

If you wear contacts, you’ve probably had a bitter encounter with this problem already. The situation may get worse if the contacts don’t get enough moisture and thin out the tear film.

It’s not just your breath that causes your eyes to feel dry. Some people like to secure their masks by taping them up to their cheeks. It can pull down your lower eyelid and cause further dryness and irritation.

The causes of dry eye are similar to those of conjunctivitis or pink eye. If you are worried about your symptoms, get an eye test and know what you can do about this problem.

Who is affected by MADE?

If you have a pre-existing dry eye problem, your mask may add to the trouble. Also, older people whose natural tear function has declined due to the natural process called ageing are also likely to be affected by mask associated dry eye.

When you are using digital devices, you blink far less than normal. The surface of your eyes run dry and when you are wearing a mask, you will feel a stinging sensation in your eyes. You can wear blue light glasses to prevent eye strain or dryness in your eyes due to screen time.

Where it is 100% safe to wear contacts, this practice may lead to disturbances with the thin tear film. As a result, those who wear contact lenses are more susceptible to this condition.

Should you be concerned?

If you have even a little doubt that your ocular dryness is an indication of something more severe, do not hesitate to call an optician. Problems with your eyes can turn serious in no time. It’s better to treat them while they are still benign. This is why even the NHS offers a free eye test to UK residents so you can keep a check on your ocular health.

How to prevent mask associated dry eyes?

Just because your mask is causing troubles with your eyes it doesn’t mean that you will throw it away. Here are all the things you can do to prevent dry eyes.

  • Wear a well-fitted mask that leaves no gaps around your nose. Even if you are using a piece of tape, make sure that it’s not stuck tightly on your upper cheekbone.
  • Spend less time in windy places or air-conditioned environments. They will dry out your eyes quickly causing irritation inside your peepers.
  • Spend less time on digital devices and get yourself in the habit of blinking often whenever you are in front of a screen.
  • If you already have dry eyes, make sure that you are wearing anti-glare glasses in a bright light environment. If you often indulge in close up tasks, order reading glasses online with an anti-glare coating. This will prevent the dryness caused by the less blinking rate.
  • Whenever your eyes feel sore or tired, put a damp warm washcloth on your closed eyelids.  Do it for a few minutes until your eyes start to feel good again.
  • Use artificial tears or lubricating eye drops to maintain the optimum moisture level in your eyes.
  • If the episodes of ocular irritation and dryness continue to persist, speak to a local optician and get an eye test as soon as possible.

Don’t let your eyes pay the price. You can still care for them while abiding by the Covid rules. Use all these tips to keep your eyes lubricated. When in doubt, catch up with an optician to know the real cause behind your dry eyes.

Written by
Brittany Berkey
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Written by Brittany Berkey