Face Masks May Increase the Risk of Dry, Irritated Eyes



Face masks have become a part of everyday life in the past two years because of the pandemic. While face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they can cause many other unwanted side effects, such as dry, irritated eyes or even a condition called dry eye.

What Is Mask-associated Dry Eye (MADE)?

Mask-associated dry eye (MADE) has affected most of the United States’ population. It occurs when exhaled air channels up out of the face mask and over the eye’s surface. Increased air over the eye evaporates tears more quickly and makes the eyes irritated, gritty, itchy and watery.

One study found that three groups were more susceptible to MADE:

  • Females
  • People who have a history of dry eye disease
  • Anyone wearing a mask longer than three hours per day

Other causes of MADE include prolonged face mask usage in air conditioning and increased use of digital devices.

How You Can Prevent MADE

Face masks are not going away soon, but you can take several steps to alleviate MADE.

  1. Learn the appropriate way to wear a face mask. Make sure your face mask fits closely to your nose, or tape the top of your mask to direct airflow downward.
  2. Limit your time in air conditioning or windy weather.
  3. Take regular breaks from digital devices. Remember the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something at least 20 feet away.
  4. Try lubricating drops if your eyes feel itchy, gritty or uncomfortable. Ask your eye doctor before using any new product.
  5. Schedule regular comprehensive eye exams with your eye doctor.

Comprehensive Eye Exams Can Diagnose Dry Eye Disease

When was the last time you scheduled a comprehensive eye exam? A complete eye exam with dilation can detect and diagnose common eye conditions like dry eye, cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration. Preventing eye disease is always preferable to treating it. Let us help you find a board-certified ophthalmologist in your area. Click here to use our Find a Physician locator tool.