Ophthalmologists warn of new ‘dry eye’ face mask condition and effects of increased screen time on children’s eyesight

ByMartha R. Camara

Sep 7, 2020
RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) — Although face coverings are a necessary tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, doctors have warned they could cause eye disease.

Experts from the Center for Ocular Research & Education warn of mask-associated dry eye, or MADE.

Raleigh optometrist’s office, Stonehenge Vision Source, has received calls from people with similar symptoms.

“People complain of gritty, gritty feeling, burning sensation, red eyes, watery eyes, sometimes blurred vision,” said Dr Amorette Hanna, who works at Stonehenge.

Hanna said symptoms can occur when a sheet mask doesn’t quite conform to the contours of the face, creating space between your skin and the fabric. Then, when you exhale, the air rises through the opening and dries out the surface of the eye.

She suggested getting a mask with a small wire inside that can give you a snug fit around the bridge of your nose.

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Ophthalmology experts added that increased screen time can also put strain on the eyes, especially for children.

“We have a lot of parents coming in asking questions about it,” Hanna said.

Many school districts are providing chrome books or tablets to students as classroom learning is no longer an option during COVID-19. Kids now sit all day staring at a computer for virtual school.

“We just blink less. We blink less fully, less often in front of the computer or any other digital device,” Hanna said.

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Hanna encouraged parents to give their children frequent breaks to help them avoid a permanent condition.

“Myopia increases over time. They predict that by 2050, half of the world’s population will be myopic, and so they find that close work (on a computer or tablet) could potentially be a cause of progression in this Hanna said.

Hanna suggests parents use the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes your child spends looking at a screen, they should be spending 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.

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