Over the course of the year, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the prevalence of an item that was once only used by surgeons, dentists and painters - the mask. Whether it be made cloth, paper or advanced grade filtration material, facemasks have become an integral and required part of our lives if we choose to go into the public. While face masks serve a great purpose in slowing the spread of COVID-19, recent research has shown that face coverings can also lead to certain complications. One such complication is Mask Associated Dry Eye or MADE.
If you have noticed that your eyes have started to feel gritty, painful, uncomfortable or even have a burning sensation after prolonged use, then it’s possible that you may be feeling symptoms of MADE. Watery eyes may also be a symptom of MADE as well.
The reason that MADE occurs is simple. Wearing a face covering causes outflow of air from exhaling through areas where the face mask does not touch facial skin. Most often, this in the areas directly adjacent to both sides of the nose. This airflow funnels directly onto the front surface of your eye, creating a constant drying effect on the tear film. Yes, this is the same airflow that causes your glasses and sunglasses to fog up!
Individuals that are predisposed to dry eye syndrome (DES), will probably feel the effects of MADE more than others, however many of my patients that have never had dry eye symptoms before are noting new dry eye onset due to masks.
Here are a few tips for preventing MADE:
- Try to use a face covering that has a malleable “wire” on the top part of the mask, that allows the mask to be bent to the contour of the nose and cheeks. Often, this is seen with disposable surgical masks.
- Make sure your mask is the right size. Every person has a different face shape and face size. Some masks may be too large or too small, so make sure that you are getting adequate coverage, but something that is too large or loose.
- Ensure that straps are tight. Often with reusable masks (cloth) the elastic can be worn out with time, especially if you are washing the mask.
Here are a few tips for dealing with MADE:
- Make sure you are adequately hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Hydration plays a key factor in ensuring enough tear film on the eyes!
- Use artificial tears to help lubricate the eyes. Systane, Refresh and Blink are all trusted over-the-counter brands. If you are planning on using artificial tears frequently, consider non-preserved artificial tears to prevent hypersensitivity. Avoid “get the red out” drops - these do not treat the underlying problem.
- Consider adding an Omega 3 supplement to your diet. Omega 3s have been shown to help tear production. Remember to consult with your primary care doctor before adding any supplements to your regimen, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
- If your eyes still feel dry, schedule an appointment with us by calling (650) 948-3700 to explore other remedies!
-Dr. Aaron Neufeld
Dr. Aaron Neufeld is the Chief Optometrist at Los Altos Optometric Group and primary author and editor of The EYE Digest.
To contact him with questions or make an appointment call: (650) 948-3700 or send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org