It’s been a month now since the mandatory mask by-law in Calgary has come into effect to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, constant usage of face masks has given rise to a new problem: increased reports of dry eyes.
As a team, we are in masks all day seeing patients. I noticed several months ago that my eyes became significantly drier after prolonged mask wear. And experts now agree that Mask Associated Dry Eye (MADE) may become a problem for a large percentage of the population. We need to wear our masks to protect ourselves and others so how can we protect our eyes from dryness and discomfort with mask use?
Dry eye symptoms such as dry, gritty, burning or stinging eyes can be worsened by mask wear because the masks significantly reduce the outward spread of air. When a mask sits loosely against the face the exhaled air is blown upwards onto the ocular surface creating conditions that increase tear evaporation. If the tears are not stable on the eyes then they will dry off more quickly which can lead to symptoms of dry eyes. Beyond discomfort, MADE may encourage people to rub their eyes for temporary relief which can increase the possibility of unwashed hands touching the face. This in turn can increase the potential of COVID through the mouth, nose and to a lesser extent, the eye.
To combat this problem ensure your mask fits properly. You can use tape, a Kleenex, or a mask with an adjustable nose clip to create a better seal with the mask across the bridge of your nose. If you are using tape, make sure that it is not too close to the eyes.
If your eyes are feeling dry or irritated throughout the day use preservative-free artificial tears to help keep the eyes well-lubricated. Take breaks from digital devices while following the 20/20/20 rule for taking a visual break every 20 minutes for 20 seconds looking at an object 20 feet (or 6 meters) away. Our blink rate can decrease by 60% when we are staring at our screens and improper blinking can lead to more dry eye problems so remember to BLINK! Have you been suffering from MADE? If so book in to see our Optometrists today.