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Face Masks Causing Dryness

We are almost 2 years into the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have been wearing face masks, practicing social and physical distancing, and minimizing close contact since then.

There are many aspects of the pandemic that have people feeling frustrated and burnt out. For me, it is how face masks affect my dry eye disease.

The correlation

Just to be clear, I support wearing face masks as they protect me and others from transmissibility and infection. And regardless of how it affects my condition, I will continue to wear them. I am just a bit upset about the negative relation between masks and my dry eyes.

Doctors have noticed a rise in the number of people experiencing dry eye symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic. One study found that this is regardless of whether they have experienced eye dryness in the past. Air exhaled rises towards the eye and causes faster tear evaporation, leading to symptoms of dry eye. Dryness caused by face masks can exacerbate existing dry eyes in the elderly, immunosuppressed people, and those who wear masks for extended periods of time.1

More dryness

As an immunosuppressed person with existing dry eye disease, this explains why my symptoms have been worse for the past 2 years. On days when I need to wear my mask for longer, I find that I have to put in lubricating eye drops more often. And unavoidable cold air in the winters probably doesn't help either.

To top it all off, I wear glasses all the time and feel like wearing them with masks contributes to my worsening dryness. I think this is because the air rising towards the eyes is visibly seen in people that wear glasses. Oftentimes when they exhale, their glasses lenses fog up.

Not making much improvement

Beyond the discomfort of the exacerbation of my symptoms, this is disheartening because I feel like it sets back my progress. I work very hard to combat dry eye disease. A significant amount of my time and energy goes towards daily eye treatments and routines.

It feels like I am doing the best I can and not making much improvement, because masks increase the dryness and cancel out all the work I put in. I know every chronic condition has ups and downs; times of improvement and times of struggle. But it still hurts when it feels like my efforts are not helping.

Do you feel like face masks make your dry eye symptoms worse?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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