What is Mask Associated Dry Eye?
Mask Associated Dry Eye (MADE) is a condition coined by health experts to describe dry eye disease caused by wearing a face mask for long periods. Recently, there has been an increase in ocular irritation and dryness among those who wear face masks regularly.
Symptoms of dry eye include:
How can wearing face masks or coverings cause dry eyes?
Face masks reduce the outward spread of air. If your face mask is not correctly fitted to your face, it will direct air upward, out the top of the face mask and toward the eyes when you breathe out. The air then travels over the surface of the eye (this is the same process that causes foggy glasses while wearing a mask). The flow of air toward your eyes causes tears to evaporate, which causes the ocular surface to dry out and cause discomfort.
Once you have Mask Associated Dry Eye, you may find yourself rubbing your eyes to relieve these dry eye symptoms. This only leaves the eyes feeling worse, and it then can become a vicious cycle. We highly recommend that you avoid touching your face and eyes as suggested by NHS guidance to limit the spread of COVID-19.
It's easy to confuse Mask Associated Dry Eye symptoms with pink eye/conjunctivitis, so if you are experiencing dry eyes and have any concerns about your symptoms, you should contact your GP for support and advice.
Who is at risk of MADE?
The following groups are more prone to Mask Associated Dry Eye Disease:
- Contact lens wearers
- Postmenopausal women
- Those with autoimmune diseases
- Individuals with known connective tissue diseases
- Those in professions that require prolonged mask wear
- Anyone who spends long hours in front of digital devices
The study also found that there were no differences in discomfort levels between those who wore contact lenses and those who wore glasses. However, there were fewer reports of dry eye symptoms from those with no form of vision correction.
How to reduce symptoms of Mask Associated Dry Eye
Even if you are experiencing Mask Associated Dry Eye symptoms, it’s important to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect yourself and those around you. Nevertheless, wearing your face mask shouldn’t cause discomfort, so here are 5 solutions to consider to reduce the symptoms of eye dryness:
1. Make sure that your mask is well fitted, and consider taping the top edge
Your face mask should not be loose at the top. Your face mask must fit correctly to prevent air from escaping from the top and protect yourself and those around you from coronavirus.
Adjust the ear loops if necessary so that your mask fits snugly, and make sure the nosepiece mirrors the bridge of your nose so that the mask fits closely to your upper cheeks.
Taping the top edge of your mask is an excellent way to secure it; however, make sure it’s not stuck too tightly to your cheeks as you don't want it to tug on your lower eyelid and irritate your eyes further.
2. Use lubricating eye drops to reduce the feeling of dry eyes
If your eyes get increasingly dry throughout the day, consider using eye drops as part of your eye care regime. These can help lubricate your eyes and prevent dry eyes. Make sure you wash and dry your hands thoroughly before applying eye drops.
3. Reduce the time you spend in drying environments
Dry air, windy environments and time spent in front of digital devices can further dry out your eyes. Limit your time spent in these environments, and if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer, we recommend taking regular screen breaks. We would also recommend wearing sunglasses outside as not only will they protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays, they will also add an extra layer of protection from the wind.
4. Soothe your eyes with a warm compress
You can relax and soothe dry and irritated eyes by using a warm compress such as our Thera-Pearl Eye Mask. This eye mask provides a spa-like treatment from the comfort of your own home and will rejuvenate your eyes. The warmth of this compress will help stimulate the tear glands in your eyelids to produce more tears and keep your eyes lubricated.