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Mask-associated dry eyes: All you need to know

Mask-Associated Dry Eyes

It’s been a little over a year since face masks have become an extension of our being. They offer a lot of protectionthis 2013 study shows that surgical masks and N95 masks filter out 60 and 95 percent of 0.3-micron particles. By now, you must have noticed some side effects of prolonged mask usage like skin irritation, rashes, headaches, ear pain, and even Mask-Associated Dry Eyes (MADE)a new condition.

What’s the connection between face masks and dry eyes?

face mask and dry eyes

One of the main reasons for this is the warm air blowing up from the mask and into the wearer’s eye. It increases the evaporation of the tear film. 

When one wears masks for long hours at a stretch, the drying up of eyes leads to slight inflammation of the eye surface, eye irritation, redness, sensitivity to light, etc. Improper taping of masks can interfere with blinking and eye lubrication as this restricts the normal function of the lower eyelid.

These conditions are known to increase in people who use spectacles and lenses.

Are you more sensitive to MADE?

MADE - Mask and Eyes

You could be more sensitive to this condition if you wear masks for long hours at a stretch or work in an air-conditioned environment. It’s because the airflow from AC vents increases the rate of tear film evaporation. Moreover, extended screen time while wearing masks can make you more sensitive to dry eyes. 

If you are over 60, you could be more susceptible to this since tear secretion reduces with age.

Tips to prevent mask-associated dry eyes

Mask and eyes

Research shows that a well-fitting mask can do wonders. Masks with nose clips and adjustable ear loops provide a snug fit that reduces upward airflow. Taping the top of your mask to improve its fit and reduce airflow but can only be helpful if your lower eyelid can function correctly.

Whenever possible, try to limit your time in air-conditioned environments or swap them with a well-ventilated or outdoor space. And don’t forget to take breaks from your beloved digital devices- this is because we blink less while on our tablet, laptop, or phones. Remember that less blinking means drier eyes. You can also soothe your eyes with a warm compress when they are sore.

If you experience prolonged irritation, your ophthalmologist might prescribe you eye drops to help in tear production and eye lubrication.

Many people have been facing dry eyes since the beginning of the pandemic due to prolonged screen time and mask. It can be managed by taking precautions to ensure that your mask fits snugly against your face and minute lifestyle changes