Masks Cause Surge in Chronic Eye disease

Blurry vision, pain, redness, light sensitivity, irritation, tearing, “grit” in the eyes, foreign body sensation: these are the symptoms of the newly minted Mask Associated Dry Eye Syndrome or MADES for short.

Getting teary-eyed would already be a welcome relief for folks suffering from chronic dry eye, a disease that already affects millions. Now due to the use of COVID masks their condition is MADE even more miserable. Even normal non dry eye sufferers can be edged into a chronic cycle of dryness through mask wearing.

“Of the many issues we treat in our office, dry eye is among the top,” said ophthalmologist Dr. Rafael Trespalacios of Tres Vision Group in Melbourne, Merritt Island and Suntree.

A common question is, “If it is just dry eyes why do I not get relief by just making it wet by adding eye drops?,” or “But my eyes are already tearing?”.

The answer to that question is Tears are complicated. Dry eyes is a misnomer and should actually be referred to as a tear dysfunction where over 85% of dry eyes is caused by evaporative loss.

According to the Dry Eye Directory group, up to 49 million people in the United States already suffer from the problem. Age, sex and race play a part. Individuals over the age of 50 are more at risk, as are women and persons of Hispanic or Asian descent. Contact lens users—even those with throwaway types—are more prone to the problem. Ditto for people with autoimmune disorders such as lupus.

Over-dependence on technology doesn’t help. When we look at these screens, we tend to blink less, which is a bad thing, since blinking refreshes the ocular surface.

“We are all looking at computer screens and cell phones all day and now with using a COVID mask a tiny jet stream of air is aimed directly at your eye every time you breathe. These jet streams make the simple action of sighing after a long days work a cause of further evaporative loss.” said Dr. Trespalacios.

Radiation therapy, laser eye surgery, allergies and deficiency of vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids are additional dry eye culprits, as is Florida’s searing heat.

The condition is not only annoying, but also be detrimental to vision.

“Dry eyes can lead to permanent damage and affect your quality of life,” said Dr. Trespalacios.

For temporary help, Dr. Trespalacios suggests consciously blinking more often, or resting your eyes by closing them, particularly if video screens are part of your daily routine.

A comprehensive eye exam can diagnose the condition. At Tres Vision Group, one of the first Dry Eye Centers in the South East, an experienced team of doctors of optometry and ophthalmology use the latest technological therapeutic options for those suffering from dry eye.

While mild symptoms may be kept at bay with over-the-counter artificial tears, many individuals find that the effectiveness of these products diminish with usage and that preservatives present in many of these lead to even further irritation.

Treatment options at Tres Vision Group include LipiFlow®, non-invasive technology that can provide up to 12 months of relief in a little more than 12 minutes. “Toughing it out” without treatment is detrimental, for dry eye can result in a corneal ulcer or conjunctivitis that can result in partial or complete loss of vision.

“With appropriate and timely care, we can make a difference,” said Dr. Trespalacios.

For more information, call 321-984-3200 or visit