More and more of my patients are complaining of an increase in irritated eyes and variable vision: especially those that have to wear masks for extended periods of time, those with dry eyes and even those that generally don’t have symptoms of dry eyes.
Why is this happening?
When we have a healthy tear layer, it lubricates the surface of the eye and this means there is smooth and comfortable movement of the lid over the eye with each blink.
BUT, when the tear film is constantly disrupted, the eyes then tend to feel irritated, dry, sore, and may become red and very watery. Masks decrease the amount of air spread away from the nose and mouth, but the air still needs to go somewhere. So, when a mask fit too loosely on the face, the air stream tends to go up over the surface of the eye, causing the tears to evaporate at a faster rate.
To help you navigate the dry eye symptoms created by face masks, Doctors EyeCare Grande Prairie has listed below three ways to alleviate mask associated dry eye (MADE*).
1. Make sure your mask fits well
Ensure that it is close-fitting. The fabric masks especially don’t seem to have enough structure over the nose, so try inserting a paper clip/pipe cleaner over the top edge so that you can mould it to your nose. This helps direct the air downward and away from your eyes.
2. Use lubricating eye drops
If your eyes are well lubricated, they will feel more comfortable. Be proactive: don’t wait until your eyes feel dry, rather drop in some artificial tears throughout your day. You can consult with your eye care practitioner for their recommendation regarding the use of lubricating eye drops.
3. Pay attention to your surroundings and take breaks
Try to keep out of “windy” environments: turn down the fan, move the vents in the car so they don’t blow air right at your eyes.
Masks are here to stay for some time, so try to follow these simple steps together with social distancing and hand washing so that your eyes remain comfortable while wearing a mask.
For more tips on handling dry eye issues, reach out to Doctors EyeCare Grande Prairie by Dr. Shonah Finlay. Dr. Shonah is an experienced optometrist in Grande Prairie, Alberta. She has over a decade of experience in her field and works hard to provide the best possible comprehensive eye care. To offer substantial care to patients, she ensures that she is current with the rapid advances in her field. At the same time, she ensures to educate her patients about their condition and treatment options. That way, she can serve her patients better and improve their comfort level. To learn more about our services, please click here or get in touch with us by clicking here.
*Adapted from the observational study done by – Moshirfar, M., West, W.B. & Marx, D.P. Face Mask-Associated Ocular Irritation and Dryness. Ophthalmol Ther 9, 397–400 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40123-020-00282-6