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A doctor explains how to prevent dry eyes from wearing a mask



The public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the emergence of a number of other tangential health conditions, from isolation-related “coronaphobia” to “maskne” or skin breakouts as a result of extended mask wear. Another newly developed disease is mask-associated dry eye (MADE).

This is caused by excess air flowing directly into the eye when you exhale, as the mask directs this air out through the edges of the material. It can cause redness, an itchy or grainy feeling, or even excessive moisture in the eyes, caused by the eyes tearing reflexively in response to the dryness.

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In a new YouTube video, Joseph Allen OD offers some suggestions on how best to avoid dry eyes while wearing your mask.

Breathe through your nose. “When you breathe through your mouth, that air will hit the mask and go straight up and cause more dryness,” says Allen. Using the same logic, he recommends avoiding rooms where air conditioners or fans are used, which will blow more air into the eye.

Seal the mask. Using a flexible metal strap to secure the material on your nose and make the mask tighter will reduce the amount of air that escapes upwards. This is also a convenient way for people who wear glasses to avoid fogging up the lenses. Allen also suggests padding the mask underneath to make it more comfortable and create an “air dam”.

Use lubricating eye drops. “Usually, it’s best to look for one that hasn’t been preserved,” advises Allen. “Also, try to avoid the drops as most of them have certain medications that are quite old and do more harm than good to the eye.”

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Wear moisture glasses. These are simply normal glasses frames that have been coated with a silicone layer to protect the eyes from the airflow.

Use a humidifier. “Lower humidity levels will increase the evaporation of your tears, so consider buying a humidifier,” says Allen. This may be more necessary as the weather gets colder and we turn on the heating in our homes, which further lowers the humidity.

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