Ask Dr. Wesley: What Do I Need to Know About Mask-Associated Dry Eye?

While wearing a mask is crucial during COVID-19, there are also side effects including acne, foggy glasses… and dry eye. A recent report in the Journal of Ophthalmology and Therapy details how dry eye cases have increased among those who frequently wear masks. 

So why is this happening, and what do you need to know?

What Is Dry Eye? 

Normally, the front surface of the eye is protected by a consistent tear film. This film is made up of three different layers: a water layer, a mucus layer, and an oil layer. 

All three of these layers must be correctly balanced and present to create a properly hydrating, lubricating, and nourishing film for the cornea and sclera (white part) of the eye. They provide moisture and lubrication, allowing you to see and for your eyes to stay comfortable. 

Many factors can disturb this delicate balance, like wearing a mask for prolonged periods of time. Over time, chronically dry eyes may experience permanent corneal scarring or other damage, so it’s important to treat your dry eye symptoms right away. 

What Causes Mask-Associated Dry Eye? 

While Mask-Associated Dry Eye is a new condition, there are some theories as to why cases are on the rise. One theory is that wearing a mask causes airflow issues, so when you breathe out and your mask doesn’t fit tightly, air can flow across the surface of your eyes. This encourages evaporation and dry eyes out your eyes, similar to how AC vents blowing directly on you can dry out your skin. 

How to Treat Mask-Associated Dry Eye

The first step to treating dry eyes is ensuring that your mask fits correctly. Your mask should have a nose bridge that molds to your face, and adjustable earloops for a tight fit. Medical tape can also help to seal your mask across your nose to prevent slippage or airflow. 

If you are experiencing Mask-Associated Dry Eye, contact Complete Eye Care of Medina for further recommendations.