Face masks have become a part of everyday life in the past two years because of the pandemic. While face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they can cause unwanted side effects, including dry, irritated eyes or even a condition called Dry Eye.
What Is Mask-associated Dry Eye (MADE)?
Face coverings are causing millions of Americans to experience eye irritation. Mask-associated Dry Eye has affected most of the United States population since the onset of COVID-19. This condition occurs when exhaled air channels up out of the face mask and over the eye’s surface. Increased air over the eye evaporates tears more quickly and makes the eyes irritated, gritty, itchy and watery. One study found that three groups were more susceptible to MADE:
- People who have a history of Dry Eye disease
- Anyone wearing a mask longer than three hours per day
Wearing contact lenses can also increase the risk for MADE. Other risk factors include prolonged face mask usage in air conditioning and increased use of digital devices.
Ten Tips for Preventing MADE
Face masks are not going away soon, but you can take several steps to alleviate MADE.
- Ensure your mask fits snugly around your nose to prevent air from being channeled up toward the eyes. Wearing a mask with a pliable nose wire can be helpful.
- Tape the top of your mask to direct airflow downward instead of upward.
- Limit your time in air conditioning or windy weather.
- Turn off overhead fans or desk fans.
- Try not to rub or touch irritated eyes. Use warm, moist compresses to alleviate eye irritation.
- Blink more often. Blinking is essential for maintaining eye moisture.
- If you wear contact lenses, consider switching to a daily disposable lens.
- Take regular breaks from digital devices. Remember the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something at least 20 feet away.
- Try lubricating drops if your eyes feel itchy, gritty or uncomfortable. Ask your eye doctor before beginning use of any new product.
- Schedule regular comprehensive eye exams with your eye doctor.
Comprehensive Eye Exams Can Diagnose Dry Eye Disease
When was the last time you scheduled a comprehensive eye exam with your ophthalmologist? A complete eye exam with dilation can detect and diagnose common eye conditions like dry eye, cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration. Call today to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam for you and your family members.