Mask wear exacerbates dry eye disease (DED) symptoms in individuals reporting mild symptoms prior to masking up, but does not significantly affect symptoms among individuals reporting severe DED symptoms prior to mask wear, according to research published in Eye and Contact Lens. The style of mask worn may also affect DED symptoms, the report suggests.
Researchers enrolled 77 individuals (77% women) in a prospective, cross-sectional survey study to explore potential associations between mask wear and DED. Study participants completed a modified Standard Patient Evaluation of Eye Dryness (SPEED) questionnaire within 15 minutes of initiating mask wear and within 15 minutes of discontinuing it and provided data regarding mask wear time, mask style, refractive error, and demographic information.
Overall, the change in SPEED score was not significant between baseline assessment and following mask wear (12.4 vs 13.1; P =.09). However, when stratified according to DED severity, participants with mild DED experienced significant increases in SPEED score compared with individuals reporting severe symptoms at baseline (2.22 vs 0.22; P =.03). Contact lens wear did not significantly affect SPEED score (P =.14), according to the report. Individuals with severe baseline SPEED scores more frequently reported wearing masks with a nose wire compared with individuals with mild symptoms (P =.03), suggesting that these masks may protect against DED symptoms.
“With continued mask use worldwide, especially in the health care sector, it is important to further understand protective factors for [mask-associated dry eye], including exploring further the impacts of types of masks and dry eye status of patients,” according to the study authors.
Study limitations include a single center design, short study duration, reliance on self-reported data, and an overrepresentation of women and individuals with younger age (mean age, 26.7 years) in the study sample.
Chen E, Rueff E, Nguyen AL. Impact of mask-associated dry eye on symptom score. Eye Contact Lens. Published online June 26, 2023. doi:10.1097/ICL.0000000000001009