'Dry eye' affecting more people during pandemic, ophthalmologist says

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- First there was "maskne," people complaining about skin breakouts due to wearing face masks. Now there is another issue that you may not realize is related to wearing a mask.

"Since the pandemic, we've seen an increase in patients coming complaining of irritation, dryness, even blurry vision," said ophthalmologist Dr. Colleen Halfpenny.

Dr. Halfpenny said dry eye was already a common complaint, but there are several reasons it is affecting more people during the pandemic. One major culprit is the face mask.

"Depending on the fit of the mask, a lot of that air while you're talking or breathing is escaping through the mask and it's being forced into your eyes," she said.

Dr. Halfpenny said that causes tears to evaporate faster, like when sitting close to an air vent in the car.

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Also, if the mask is too tight it might be pulling on your lower eyelid, which would disrupt your blinking and disrupting tears.

One simple solution is a better fitting mask or try her DIY hack.

"Really just a simple piece of scotch tape just over the bridge of your nose can be helpful," she said.

Another factor that could be adding to the problem is more screen time.

"When you are on a computer you are blinking about half as much as you should be, so be conscious of that. Blinking more frequently, taking some breaks from the screen time, just like we tell our kids, is important," she said. "Contact lenses and heat can also make things worse. Artificial tears can help, and so can using a humidifier."

But if you are still not finding any relief or if you have blurry vision it is best to see an ophthalmologist.
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