How to keep your mask from drying your eyes

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ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — If your eyes feel dry, or it seems like your vision isn’t as clear as it once was, you may be able to blame the pandemic. Wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it can also cause irritating side effects, like dry eyes.

In the past year, optometrist Dr. Michelle Barnes has been getting a lot more complaints from patients, about dry eyes. And, a report in the Journal of Ophthalmology finds that’s also the case for eye doctors across the country.

According to Dr. Barnes, the consensus is that the fit of the mask is key.

“If you have a mask that does not have a fitted nose, a lot of moisture and bacteria from in your mouth and your nose, would be funneled up from your mouth into your eyes, and, probably, it’s the hot air literally coming out of your mouth, that’s causing the dryness,” Dr. Barnes explained.

She added that a mask that’s too tight can pull your lids down, and then your tears evaporate more quickly. Dr. Barnes applies special drops, during an exam, to assess the extent of dryness. Under a special light, the dry areas show up as tiny yellow spots on the eyes. After Dr. Barnes applies other eye drops, the type you can use to relieve dryness, the change can be seen on the surface of the eye.

She said, “Lubricating your eyes can be very helpful and they do recommend an oil-based lubricant might be better, so certain drops have that , as opposed to just artificial tears, that are more like saline.”

Dr. Barnes also recommends applying a heated mask or a warm compress with a wash cloth, to help boost your normal tear production.

But maybe more importantly, to help prevent eye dryness, make sure that you have a mask with a pliable nose wire that you can fit well to your face and adjustable ear loops that you can tighten as you need to.

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