Are you suffering from mask-associated dry eye?

With everyone wearing face coverings or masks to reduce the spread of coronavirus, there have been new reports showing that people who wear them regularly are more likely to suffer from dry eye symptoms. Experts are calling this mask-associated dry eyes (MADE).

What are the symptoms of dry eye?

  • Feelings of dryness, grittiness or soreness that get worse during the day
  • Red eyes
  • Watering of the eyes
  • Eyelids that stick together when you wake up
  • Temporarily blurred vision, which usually improves when you blink

What causes dry eyes when wearing a face covering or mask?

When wearing a mask or face covering you limit your airflow and ventilation underneath the mask. If the mask does not fit tightly on your face; when you breathe out, warm air escapes from the top of your mask and over the surface of your eyes (the same thing is happening when your glasses lenses fog up). Due to this increased flow of warmer air over the surface of your eyes, your tears evaporate more rapidly. This in turn leaves your eyes feeling irritated and dry. If you already suffered from dry eye previously or are a contact lens wearer with dry eye, this could exacerbate discomfort.

Due to the discomfort, you may be more prone to touching or rubbing your eyes to attempt to get relief from the symptoms. However, it’s really important to continue following NHS guidance and to avoid touching your face and eyes to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

How to prevent or reduce dry eyes during the lockdown and whilst wearing a face covering?

1. Ensure your mask fits you correctly:

This is the simplest yet most important tip. If the face-covering does not fit correctly, not only will it not be ineffective at protecting you or those around you, but it will allow the warm air to escape from the top with ease.

2. Limit time in drying environments:

Try to avoid spending too much time in dry air or windy environments.

3. Take regular breaks from screens:

Lockdown has hugely increased the amount of time people are spending on digital devices. It’s important to take regular breaks from the screen – an easy way to do this is by using the 20:20 rule. Every 20 minutes look at something really far in the distance/out the window for 20 seconds before looking back to the screen.

4. Use a warm compress:

If your eyes are sore and irritated, try dampening a washcloth or flannel with warm water and placing it on your closed eyelids for a few minutes — many people choose to do this when they are going to bed. The warmth of the water can help stimulate your tear glands in the eyelids to produce more liquid and oil (which are natural components of tears) to help keep your eye lubricated throughout the day.

5. Use lubricating eye drops:

Eye drops can help provide the extra lubrication to prevent your eyes from becoming dry. It’s important to be careful when touching your eyes, so make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before administering them. If you’re unsure about which drops might be right for your eyes, your optician can advise you on the best choice.

6. Speak to your optician:

If you’d like some further advice on how to soothe dry eyes at this time, just give us a call on 02072423492 or drop us an email on holborn@hbdopticians.co.uk. We’ll be able to guide you on some safe and simple ways to care for your eyes at this time either via phone or via a Dry-Eye Assessment appointment.

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