Wearing face mask and rubbing eye

With review and feedback by CEENTA Optometrist Michael Spicola, MD (Huntersville)

You wear your mask every day, like you should, and you have no problem breathing in it. You have noticed, though, that your eyes have been a bit irritated. Is there a chance wearing a mask might be related?

Why might my face mask be causing problems?

It’s not necessarily the mask that’s the issue, but the way you’re wearing it. Masks need to be worn tight around your upper nose. If the mask is loose, warm, dry air can be released upwards, into your eyes. Also, if your mask pulls down on your eyelids, it can prevent you from blinking properly.

What issues might this cause?

First, a decrease in blinking and the expulsion of dry air might lead to dry eye. Dry eye symptoms include uncomfortable eyes, scratchiness, stinging, sensitivity to light, a sensation of something in the eyes, stringy mucus in or around the eyes, eye redness, difficulty wearing contact lenses, difficulty with nighttime driving, eye fatigue, blurry vision, and excessive tearing. If left untreated, dry eye can lead to eye infections, surface damage, and difficulty performing everyday activities.

There’s also a chance you might get a stye. A stye is an active infection that presents as a small bump on the edge of the eyelid. A stye is an active infection. Sometimes it feels like something is in the eye and can cause irritation. They can sometimes cause light sensitivity, tearing, or crustiness along the edge of the eyelid.

Michael Spicola, MD

While a stye usually goes away on its own after two to ten days, medical treatment is sometimes necessary.

However, CEENTA’s doctors want to be clear that it’s not certain that wearing a mask is the direct cause of eye issues.

“Dry eye is definitely an issue, but it’s dry no matter what this time of year,” CEENTA optometrist Michael Spicola, OD, said. “And while there has been an increase in styes, we don’t know that we can tie it to masks, nor what the specific cause may be, such as infections or pressure on the eye.”

How is dry eye treated?

Humidifiers can add moisture to the air, while artificial tears can help lubricate your eyes. Try to blink regularly while using your computer or other devices.

How is a stye treated?

Warm compresses and gently cleaning the eye can help a stye heal on its own. If medical treatment is necessary, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or steroid. In other cases, they may have to make an incision or lance them so they drain.

Responsible care at CEENTA

No matter how your eyes feel, we strongly urge you to wear masks when appropriate, and we require them in all our practices. And if you’re having an issue like dry eye or a stye, we’ll be happy to treat it.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. You can now schedule an appointment online with Dr. Spicola or any of our nearly 50 eye doctors in North and South Carolina. You can also schedule through myCEENTAchart or by calling 704-295-3000.


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