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How face masks are affecting our eye health

In order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, governments around the world have introduced the mandatory use of face masks. These face coverings have quickly become something of a ‘new norm’ in our everyday lives and now make up part of our daily uniform.  In some countries, for example, in Japan, they have been commonplace for many years. Although face masks are an essential tool in protecting us from spreading and contracting the coronavirus, there is evidence to suggest that they may be affecting our eye health.

With no sign of the use of face masks halting any time soon, read our advice on how you can avoid eye-related issues when wearing your face mask.

1. Foggy Glasses

If you are a glasses wearer you have probably encountered the issue of your glasses steaming up while wearing your face mask.  Not only is this highly irritating and inconvenient, but being visually impaired in this way can also leave people feeling claustrophobic as well as putting them at high risk of an adverse event such as a serious accident, trip or fall.  Many falls and accidents can be serious enough to require hospital attention and at a time when there is so much pressure on hospitals, it is important that we do what we can to try and relieve this burden.

For many people, the vision correction surgery offering at Optical Express is the best way of avoiding this problem. Since the start of the pandemic, we have treated a significant number of patients with laser eye surgery and lens replacement surgery who are now no longer suffering from visual impairment caused by their face masks and glasses. You can find out more about their experiences at Optical Express here. If you are ready to say goodbye to steamed up glasses why not book a free of charge consultation and find out if you would be suitable for laser or lens surgery.

2. Dry Eye

When wearing a face mask, exhaled breath is directed upward and exits through the top of the face mask.  This air is then directed into our eyes, drying out their natural tear ducts causing them to become irritated and sore. This is called dry eye, more specifically Mask Associated Dry Eye (or MADE). Dry eye is common and occurs when the tears in the eye evaporate quicker than they are able to be reproduced, or there is a deficiency in their production in the first place.

The symptoms of dry eye are mild for the majority of people however can be painful and highly irritating, causing eyes to become red, gritty, watery, and sensitive and in more serious cases can even cause temporary blurred vision. Not only are face masks to blame for the rise in dry eye but with more people spending increasing amounts of time inside during lockdown as well as relying on video technology to socialise with friends and family, there has been an increase in the use of digital devices.  This increase in digital screen time has resulted in many people experiencing dry eye symptoms.  Digital eye strain is a real concern to many patients.

The good news is that there are some steps that you can take to help relieve the symptoms. Firstly, choose a face mask with a pliable wire which can help the mask conform to your face.  This will prevent the flow of air from your mouth being directed towards your eyes.  Masks of surgical level specification, as provided to each patient attending an Optical Express clinic, are best suited.  You should also try blinking more, taking regular breaks from your digital screens and you can use lubricating eye drops to help add moisture to the eyes.

3. Eye Infections

Where some face masks sit on the skin underneath the lower lid of the eye, this can lead to bacteria entering into the eyelash follicles and glands which sit along the eyelids. This can cause the eyes to become painful and irritated, even leading to nasty eye infections including styes.  Bacteria can also be transmitted from breath, exiting from the top of the mask as well as through touching and rubbing the eyes with our hands.

In order to prevent bacteria spreading to the eye in this way, it is important that you always use a clean face mask.  It is also advised to take a break from wearing your face mask every few hours, where possible, to allow your eyes some time to recover. Current advice from the World Health Organisation is to avoid touching the face and eyes as much as possible in order to stop the spread of infection, so it is important that you avoid rubbing the eyes when they become irritated.

Speak to a Professional

As a provider of essential eye care, all Optical Express clinics are open so we can continue to provide our patients with the eye care services they require.  If you have noticed a change in your vision, are suffering from irritated eyes or think you may have an eye infection, it is important that you are assessed by a professional straight away. Book an appointment at your nearest Optical Express clinic today and our team of experts will help in offering you the eye care services you require. 

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