"Mask-associated dry eye," or "MADE," is an emerging phenomenon amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"When the elderly man came in to see Ohio-based ophthalmologist Darrell White in early May complaining of a burning sensation in his eyes and occasional blurry vision, White knew exactly what he was dealing with: another case of dry-eye syndrome.
What didn’t entirely make sense, though, was that White, a dry-eye expert, had been caring for the man for 20 years, and not once had his patient shown any symptoms of the common condition.
Then as White looked at the man, who was wearing a face mask, a familiar pandemic-era accessory, he was hit with a “lightbulb moment.”
“With each breath, his glasses were fogging and unfogging, fogging and unfogging,” White said. “That was the aha moment for me.”
The sight of the man’s steamed-up glasses coupled with his sudden onset of eye dryness are both signs of what White is calling “mask-associated dry eye,” or “MADE” — an emerging phenomenon amid the novel coronavirus pandemic that eye experts are now urging the public to be mindful about.
“The real reason for bringing this to people’s attention is to say, ‘Hey, if you notice this, this is why it’s happening and let’s help you manage your dry eye while you continue to wear your mask,’ ” said Lyndon Jones, director of the University of Waterloo’s Center for Ocular Research and Education in Canada. “We would hate for people to use this as an excuse to not wear their masks.”
Dry eye can cause discomfort, blurred vision and redness, among other symptoms. Between 20% and 25% of people worldwide report dry eye at some point in their lives, and the problem is more likely as we age, Jones said.
But in recent months, some eye-care providers have reported an uptick in patients — both who wear glasses and those who don’t — wondering why their eyes feel drier than usual, especially while wearing masks.
Eye dryness associated with face coverings, which has been the subject of at least one published paper in recent months, is probably triggered by air expelled from breathing going out the top of the mask and flowing over the surface of your eyes, according to eye experts we spoke with. The moving air dries out the tear film, a thin layer of fluid covering the eye’s surface, and speeds up evaporation. It is also possible, White said, that the mask may be aggravating oil glands near the eye and causing inflammation, which can lead to tears evaporating more rapidly. He noted, however, that the potential link between mask-wearing and the oil gland inflammation is “not really very well understood,” leading experts to point to airflow as a more probable cause.
White described the mask-associated dry eye as an “accelerant” for symptoms, particularly in people who either already have the condition or have a higher chance of developing it. One such at-risk group would be people who spend a lot of time staring at screens, White said — for instance, those of us who have now been working from home for months.
Your tears protect the surface of your eyes from infection. Without adequate tears, you may have an increased risk of eye infection. Damage to the surface of your eyes. If left untreated, severe dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation, abrasion of the corneal surface, corneal ulcer and vision problems.
People who have dry eyes may experience these complications:
- Eye infections. Your tears protect the surface of your eyes from infection. Without adequate tears, you may have an increased risk of eye infection.
- Damage to the surface of your eyes. If left untreated, severe dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation, abrasion of the corneal surface, corneal ulcer and vision problems.
- Decreased quality of life. Dry eyes can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as reading.
Because you aren't supposed to have air blowing in your eyes.. Mask wearing results in air blowing right up into your eyes.
I expect that's also a good way to introduce the virus right into your eyes as well.
From earlier today: