Expert warns of face mask-related eye dryness

Wearing masks over the mouth and nose could lead to eye disease, says ophthalmology specialist Othman Al-Abbadi.  (Photo: Pixabay)
Wearing masks over the mouth and nose could lead to eye disease, says ophthalmology specialist Othman Al-Abbadi. (Photo: Pixabay)
AMMAN – While masks protect against COVID-19, wearing them over the mouth and nose could ultimately lead to eye disease, said ophthalmology specialist Othman Al-Abbadi in a recent office interview with Jordan News.اضافة اعلان

Studies found that, generally, around 10 to 30 percent of Jordan’s population experienced eye dryness, a medical condition that results from an imbalance between secretion and drainage and affects the natural production of tears.

Based on his own observations, however, Abbadi estimated that this figure rose to 80 percent since the onset of the pandemic.

He found that even during May and June, when the weather is meant to alleviate eye dryness and redness, people still experienced symptoms. The ophthalmologist said that it is not common to witness a climb in these cases between spring and winter, given that people do not experience hay fever or winter eye viral infections during this period.

“The increased number of patients complaining about eye dryness became unbelievable,” he said.

The term “MADE,” or “mask-associated dry eye disease,” has recently been espoused by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), he said. Abbadi contended that wearing masks can be similar in effect to directing a fan towards the face for long periods of time.

The incorrect use of face masks for extended periods of time can block a person’s breath, directing their exhales upward towards the eyes, according to Abbadi.

Similar to how a fan can damage the eyes with the dust it spreads, the airflow brought up from the mouth can cause even more harm to them, he stated.

Abbadi pointed out that the mouth is a colony of over 10,000 types of bacteria, known as normal microflora. These microbes could cause serious infections and diseases when transferred to other organs, especially sensitive ones like the eyes.

MADE complaints                                                                  
MADE causes similar but even more severe symptoms compared to normal eye dryness, stressed Abbadi. A common symptom is blurred vision.

“Transient blurred vision can only mean inadequate eye lubrication, because constant poor vision is caused by injuries or other conditions, such as cataract or glaucoma,” he said.

MADE may also cause red or pinkish eyes. Foreign body sensation is another symptom, which is the feeling that a substance is present in the eyes, according to Abbadi.

When they feel dryness or experience symptoms of MADE, people resort to rubbing their eyes, a practice Abbadi called “problematic.”

“When people rub their eyes, they pull interconnections apart, allowing for microbes to enter the cornea and cause inflammations.”

Preventions and treatments
The ophthalmologist stressed the importance of wearing a face mask properly.

“Masks are some of the most necessary measures to adhere to during the pandemic. Therefore, we should make sure to secure the mask’s metal lines, shaping it over the nose to fend off complications — while at the same time opening other vents from both horizontal sides or downward from the chin.”

Abbadi also proposed a solution for those wearing glasses: use a plaster to ensure the upper edge of the mask is secured.
“This is the (same) strategy surgeons who wear microscopic glasses use. They need to always ensure good fitting of masks to avoid any blurriness in vision or MADE as well.” 

Beyond precautionary measures, treatment for MADE may include artificial tears or tear-substitutes, which are available in over 30 types. Although lubricating eye drops add moisture to relieve dry eye discomfort, Abbadi said that “patients start to need longer medication courses” because over-the-counter medications may lose their effectiveness in severe cases of MADE.

The ophthalmologist urged people to seek medical advice if they suffer a serious setback, especially during this year’s hot summer.

General causes of eye dryness
In addition to masks, there are several conditions that cause eye dryness, such as eyelid inflammation due to the use of eye-liners.

“Cosmetic eyeliner may lead to blockage of eyelids,” said Abbadi. “This would prevent the natural oil-like substance, giving way only for water release, which would accelerate evaporation.”

A similar case applies to smokers. Smoking affects the oily layer in the eyelids, causing redness and dryness in eyes, he said.

Truck drivers are also subject to severe dryness in their eyes, Abbadi said.

People driving for long periods are affected not only by air conditioners or fans but also by the sun.

“Haulers or chauffeurs usually have severe symptoms in their left eyes since the sun hits directly from the window,” said Abbadi.

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