Can your face masks make your eyes dry?


Wearing a face mask is the most important thing you can do to stop the spread of Covid 19. But, prolonged use of face masks has led to other problems such as foggy glasses, mask acne and skin irritation on the face.  

As per the report published on Ophthalmology and Therapy, there has been an increase in cases of eye irritation and dry eyes among the people who regularly use a face mask. These people also include those with no past record of any eye problem.  

This problem is known as the mask-associated dry eye which has important effects on your eye health as face masks are not going anywhere soon. They are going to be a part of the foreseeable future as well.  

What is dry eye anyway? 

Let’s back it up for a moment and learn what a dry eye truly is. It refers to a state of your eyes when they become unable to produce quality tears or produce them in sufficient amounts.  

This occurs when there’s a problem with the components of the tear film which consists of several layers.  

Dry eye is a common problem; it’s more common in women than men. It includes the following unpleasant symptoms: 

  • Gritty sensation in the eye 
  • Strong urge to rub the eye 
  • Feeling as if something is in the eye 
  • Red or bloodshot eyes 
  • Watery eyes 
  • Blurry vision 
  • Sensitivity to light 

Tinted glasses are recommended for people with light sensitivity. The coloured lenses filter out the excessive light and bring a natural relief to light-sensitive eyes.  

Dry eyes could also occur if you’re taking certain medications or are constantly exposed to a windy environment. This problem could also happen if you stare at digital screens for long hours without the use of protective eyewear.  

What is mask-associated dry eye? 

It refers to the problem of dry eyes developed due to the prolonged use of face masks. Recent research and studies have found an increase in eye irritation and dryness in people who wear a face mask regularly.  

Health experts came up with a term for it and that’s ‘mask-associated dry eye’. Those who use face coverings for a long time are more likely to experience this problem.  

How do face masks make your eyes dry out? 

There are different studies pointing out what exactly causes dryness of the eyes from using face masks. One cited that this problem has to do something with airflow issue.  

When you breathe out, the warm breath goes out through the little gaps between your face mask and the sides of your nose (if your mask isn’t tight enough). Thus, the breath flows upwards to the surface of your eyes. This triggers evaporation which dries out your tears. It’s much like how being in an air-conditioned room makes your eyeballs dry.  

Not only dry eyes, but people who wear glasses also have another problem to deal with when wearing a face mask – foggy glasses. When the warm breath hits the cold surface of the lenses, it causes them to fog up.  

To make sure your prescription glasses don’t fog up, you can either use a well-fit face mask that doesn’t leave any room for the breath to escape. Or you can also wash your lenses with soap and water to make them repellent to water molecules.  

If your mask doesn’t have the right fit, it could mess up with your eyelids. Some experts have noticed that the face-covering can pull down the lower eyelid thereby exposing your eyes more to the air. This makes blinking difficult which in turn will bring down the level of moisture on your eye’s surface causing dry eyes.  

How to prevent mask-associated dry eyes? 

You can’t simply get rid of your face masks. You need them to fight Covid. But, there are some things you can do to make sure your eyes don’t suffer while you’re protecting yourself and those around you.  

1. Wear a proper fit mask 

This may sound simple, but this is the most effective tip to avoid dry eyes from improper fit face masks.  

If the covering is not too tight or too loose, there will be no room for air to go out. Also, adjust the ear loops so your mask doesn’t come loose. And pinch the nosepiece so that it fits tight on your nose.  

2. Don’t spend time in windy environments 

Your eyes are already getting dry from wearing face coverings for a long time, the last thing you want is to spend time in windy environments. 

Similarly, spending time staring at digital screens all day is ought to make your eyes dry as well. Taking regular screen time breaks and using blue light glasses will help to prevent this problem.  

3. Use warm compresses 

If your eyes have been feeling dry, then you can use warm compresses to get the tears back. Soak a washcloth in warm water and squeeze it. Put the cloth on your eyes and do it several times a week.  

The warmth of the cloth will stimulate your tear glands and help them produce more liquid or tears.  

4. Use eye drops 

Artificial eye drops or tears are the best way to soothe your dry eyes and make sure they are nice and moisturised.  

But, make sure you wash your hands before you touch your eyes as it can accelerate the ocular irritation.  

5. Get an eye test 

A dry eye is a normal thing. It could happen due to using face masks or taking certain medications or during pregnancy. However, if your eyes start to hurt along with being dry, then you should get in touch with a good optician.  

They’ll be better suited to recommend you the right treatment and medications for your dry eyes.  

Don’t let your eyes run dry. While wearing a face mask is important, make sure you do everything to prevent dry eyes.   

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