The COVID-19 pandemic has made face masks an everyday necessity. But did you know that your face mask may be causing dry, red, and scratchy eyes?
Using face masks for extended periods can trigger dry eyes and worsen pre-existing dry eye symptoms.
In this post, we take a closer look at mask-associated dry eyes. We’ll also show you ways to combat it.
Can You Get Dry Eyes from Face Mask?
Face masks come with several discomforts and side effects. You may have mask-associated acne problems, foggy glasses, and irritation and redness around your face.
But that’s not all. According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, there’s a correlation between wearing face masks and dry eyes.
Over three thousand participants took part in the study. Of these, 18% claimed that they experienced mask-associated dry eyes.
Some common symptoms of dry eyes from face masks include sandy eyes, itchiness, excessive tearing, and redness. Apart from dry eye symptoms, many study participants also complained of general discomfort in and around the eyes.
So, how exactly does your face mask cause dry eyes?
When your face mask does not fit properly, it can push air from your nose and mouth upward, into your eyes. This causes your tear film to evaporate more quickly.
Face Mask Dry Eye Symptoms
Dry eye symptoms caused by wearing face masks are more or less the same as regular dry eye symptoms.
You may experience:
- Dry, gritty, and scratchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Blurry vision
- Eye redness and itchiness
- Irritated and swollen eyes
- Stinging and burning sensations
- Sensitivity to light
- Stringy mucus
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Sensations like there’s sand in your eyes
- Eye fatigue
- Difficulty with nighttime driving
Other Dry Eye Causes You Should Know
Wearing a face mask may trigger your dry eyes. But there are other causes why your eyes might be dry and scratchy. These include too much screen time, overuse of contact lenses, hormonal changes, dehydration, and poor diet.
- Excessive screen time – If you spend too much time on your computer or smartphone, you increase your risk of getting dry eyes. That’s because your blink rate decreases while incomplete blinks increase, making the surface of your eyes dry.
- Contact lens overuse – Wearing contact lenses for long hours can also contribute to dry eye syndrome. Contact lenses can affect tear exchange between the inner and outer layers of your eyes.
- Hormonal changes – Your hormones can be blamed for dry eyes, too. Pregnancy, menopause, and the use of birth control pills can decrease tear production.
- Age factor – Tear production diminishes as you age. As a result, dry eye syndrome is more common in people over 50.
- Medical conditions and medication – Arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid disorders can increase your likelihood of getting dry eyes. What’s more, medications including antidepressants and antihistamines can also reduce tear production.
- Dehydration – Drinking plenty of water during the day helps in the production of healthy tears. When you are dehydrated, your tear production is affected, too.
- Poor diet – A diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help your tears do their job well. On the other hand, deficiency of vitamin A, vitamin D, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids can cause a scratchy, stinging irritation in your eyes.
- Environmental factors – Living in polluted, smokey, and windy places can irritate your eyes and cause dryness.
Preventing Face Mask Associated Dry Eye
Face masks can certainly increase your risk of getting dry eyes. But that doesn’t mean you should toss away your mask and swear never to wear it again.
There are many ways to manage face mask-associated dry eyes. You can start by wearing a mask that fits you well, taking frequent screen breaks, and applying warm compresses.
Here’s how to combat dry eye from a face mask.
- Wear well-fitted masks – Make sure to wear face masks that fit you perfectly. This will prevent the air you breathe out from being directed toward your eyes and reduce eye dryness.
- Consider wearing goggles – If your dry eye syndrome is especially problematic, try wearing sealed goggles. They can help block external air and create a moist environment for your eyes.
- Apply warm compresses – You can also apply a warm compress at home. Doing so will release clogged oil from your eyelids and reduce dryness.
- Take screen breaks – Taking breaks from your digital devices can reduce eye strain and soothe any dryness. Also, blink often while working on a computer.
- Limit the use of air-cons – Air conditioning devices can make the air around you dry, triggering dry eye syndrome. Limit as much as possible your use of air-cons, heaters, and hair dryers.
The Bottom Line
So, is wearing a face mask still worth it when you have to deal with dry eyes? Yes, it is.
Face masks are an important part of your defense against COVID-19. But at the same time, you don’t have to endure face mask problems. Follow the tips we shared with you to reduce mask-associated dry eyes.
If you’re experiencing dry, tired eyes and other symptoms of dry eye disease, get your eyes checked. That way, you can seek treatment and start making lifestyle changes to improve your eye health.
Our question-based online dry eye test can tell you whether you may have dry eye disease. It takes only a few minutes to complete.