Can Mask-Wearing Cause Dry Eye?

man-with-dry-eyesWe have all adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by including several new routines to keep ourselves and others safe, such as more frequent hand washing, maintaining social distance from those who are not part of our household, and wearing masks or cloth face coverings when in a public space. Unfortunately, it seems that for those who must wear face coverings frequently and/or for long periods of time, dry eye syndrome has become more common.

Why are we seeing an increase in dry eye cases with these individuals? According to a recent study, this is most likely due to air traveling up towards the eyes when the mask-wearer exhales. This abnormal airflow can cause evaporation of tears, leading to redness, irritation, and other dry eye symptoms.

Should masks be avoided to prevent dry eye? Our knowledgeable eye doctors say No. Rather than putting others at risk by avoiding a face covering while in public, it is best to find one that can fit more securely over the bridge of the nose, such as a mask with an adjustable metal bar or wire along the top. Many patients find that paper tape (from a medical supply store or pharmacy) applied to the top of a disposable mask also helps alleviate dry eye symptoms. Additionally, we recommend taking occasional breaks from viewing electronic screens, limiting your time in air conditioned environments, and using lubricating eye drops throughout the day, as needed. Please be sure to consult with your eye doctor to determine the appropriate type of eye drops, as well as the recommended frequency of use.

If you are suffering from symptoms of dry eye, but adjusting your mask wearing hasn’t helped, please contact us today for a consultation with one of our knowledgeable eye doctors. We offer a variety of treatment options for dry eye syndrome, and can help restore comfort to your daily life.