The public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the emerge of a range of other, tangential health conditions, from isolation-induced “coronaphobia” to “maskne,” or skin breakouts as a result of wearing a mask for a prolonged period of time. Another newly coined medical condition is mask-associated dry eye (MADE).
This is caused by excess air flowing directly into the eye when we exhale, as the mask directs that air out through the edges of the material. It can cause redness, an itchy or gritty sensation, or even excessive eye wetness, which is caused by the eyes reflexively tearing in response to the dryness.
In a new YouTube video, Joseph Allen O.D. offers some suggestions for the best ways to avoid dry eye while wearing your mask.
Breathe through your nose. “If you breathe through your mouth, that air is going to hit the mask and go straight up and cause more dryness,” says Allen. By the same logic, he recommends avoiding spaces that use air conditioning or fans which will cause more air to be blown into the eye.
Seal the mask.Using a flexible metal band to secure the material onto your nose and make the mask a tighter fit will reduce the amount of air that escapes upwards — this is also a handy way for people who wear glasses to avoid fogging up their lenses. Allen also suggests padding the mask underneath to make it more comfortable, and create an “air dam.”
Use lubricating eyedrops.“It’s usually best to look for one that is non-preserved,” Allen advises. “In addition, try to avoid the ‘get the red out’ drops, as most of them have certain medications that are pretty old and cause more damage to the eye than good.”
Wear moisture goggles. These are simply regular spectacle frames that have been fitted with a silicone layer to protect the eyes from air flow.
Use a humidifier.“Lower humidity is going to increase the evaporation of your tears, so consider getting a humidifer,” says Allen. This may be more necessary as the weather gets colder and we turn on the heating in our homes, which will lower the humidity further.