Why Are My Eyes Dry After Wearing a Mask?
Because of the current pandemic, face masks continue to be an essential part of everyone’s routine. While everyone participates in preventing the spread of COVID-19, wearing a mask every day seems to be taking a toll on eye health. According to the American Association of Ophthalmology, cases of patients developing dry eye syndrome has been increasing due to prolonged mask-wearing. If you want to know why your eyes become dry after wearing your face mask, here’s what you need to know.
Research shows that full-time wearers of face masks experience dry eye symptoms because of the upward flow of air when they exhale. The immunocompromised, medical staff, and elderly patients make up most of this group. There was a study that assessed ordinary mask wearers through the Ocular Surface Disease Index. Findings showed that these individuals had elevated eye dryness and degraded corneal staining. People who wear masks blow air upward into their eyes non-stop for hours or even days. The quick and constant evaporation of tear film results in eye inflammation or irritation.
Most people don’t like the flow of air into their eyes as they wear masks. To stop the upward airflow and prevent corneal irritation, they use tape on their masks. This may be effective in blocking the upward airflow, but the tape has a negative effect. Scientists suggest that the tape that’s sticking to the upper cheek’s skin tends to interfere with the lower eyelid’s normal movement. This pulls the margin of the lower lid away from the eye (mechanical ectropion). The action prevents your eye from closing (secondary lagophthalmos), which dries the eyes.
The demand for cleaner, contaminant-free air has brought forth mechanical air-purifying devices. Experts say that these helpful machines also have negative effects on your eyes:
PAPRs (powered air-purifying respirators). They cause an increase in symptoms of dry eyes.
Chemical protection hoods. They blast air inside your face mask.
CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) masks. They irritate the surface of the eyes because of air leakages through your nasolacrimal system.
People tend to touch their eyes frequently when they wear masks because their eyes get irritated. Experts say that touching your eyes is also a way for disease-causing microbes to enter them. Because of this, your eyes remain vulnerable to COVID-19 infection despite wearing masks. Your tear film is your natural shield from pathogens. Yet because you wear face masks, your tear film evaporates quickly. Your eyes lose that natural protection. This results in further irritation and the worsening of your dry eyes.
Your risk of developing dry eye symptoms increases when you wear face masks most or even all hours of the day. Even if you don’t have a history of dry eyes, various factors contribute to its occurrence. At Advanced Vision Institute, we are tireless in guiding our patients regarding the proper wearing of masks to avoid dry eyes. Please visit our optometry office in Las Vegas, Nevada, for a consultation. You can also call us at 702-819-9800 to schedule an appointment or ask questions about preventing dry eyes while wearing face masks.