image.jpg

Wearing a face mask to stop the spread of COVID-19 can bring with it complaints of dry eyes.

"We're talking about mask-associated dry eye or MADE, as it's called," said Karen Walsh, a clinical scientist at the University of Waterloo's Centre of Ocular Research and Education (CORE).

Walsh said CORE is seeing an increase in reports of sore, dry and irritated eyes caused by wearing masks improperly.

"We're finding new people that have never had a dry eye sensation before," Walsh said.

According to Walsh, masks that are too loose allow exhaled air to escape through the top and into the eyes.

"It's helping your tear film evaporate more quickly and leaves the surface of your eyes dry," she said.

That stream of air is obvious when it fogs up people's glasses.

Walsh recommends finding a mask that fits well.

"Make sure it's fitting close and snug against the face, particularly along that top edge," she said.

She also suggests tape to hold the mask down.

"You may want to consider taping that top edge carefully to help direct flow of air away from the eyes," Walsh said.

Walsh said it's important to limit the time spent wearing a mask in an air-conditioned room or while looking at screens. Lubricating eye drops can also help.

Even if your eyes are drying out, Walsh said people should still wear masks to help prevent the spread of the virus.