While much of the public continues wearing face masks through the ongoing pandemic, some new designs in the pipeline will also protect individuals from dry eye symptoms associated with daily mask wear. Photo: Getty Images.

A recent study looking into the effects of daily face mask wear on the ocular surface and dry eye found that improper use may cause increased ocular irritation and dry eye symptoms.

The prospective study evaluated 52 right eyes of 52 subjects (26 men, 26 women) who routinely wore face masks for at least eight hours a day. All patients were assessed with Schirmer-1 test, tear break-up time (TBUT), Oxford staining grade and Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) at initial clinical admission (T1), after eight hours of face mask use (T2) and after 15 days of more than eight hours of face mask wear daily with the open portions of the mask taped down (T3).

Mean TBUT was 13.03 seconds at T1, 9.12 seconds at T2 and 12.78 seconds at T3. Mean Schirmer-1 test results were 16.87mm at T1, 12.97mm at T2 and 17.01mm at T3. There was a significant difference between T1 and T2 and between T2 and T3 in TBUT, Schirmer-1 results and Oxford staining grade. There was a significant difference between all examination times in OSDI score.

“Taping down the upper portion of the face mask blocks exhaled air from directly entering the eyes, preventing potential symptoms of dry eye,” the study authors concluded. “New types of face masks [are focused on] reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission and are designed to prevent ocular irritation and dry eye, especially masks manufactured with adhesive in the upper portions from the nostrils to the zygomatic bone. Ensuring the use of these masks may be beneficial in public health.”

Aksoy M, Simsek M. Evaluation of ocular surface and dry eye symptoms in face mask users. Eye Contact Lens. August 13, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].