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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the widespread use of face masks was recommended as a key measure against the spread of SARS-CoV-2. A marked increase in dry eye symptoms among regular mask users was reported, but the prevalence of this condition has not been described in the literature yet. The aim of this observational, descriptive, and cross-sectional study was to measure self-reported symptoms of mask-associated dry eye in the general population and to identify factors influencing this condition.
An anonymous online survey was distributed using Google Forms through different social media platforms.
A total of 3,605 surveys were analysed. Of the 2,447 having symptoms, 658 (26.9 %) participants reported their symptoms were exacerbated when wearing a mask, thus 18.3 % of all participants experienced mask-associated dry eye. There was no significant association between perceived mask-associated dry eye and age, refractive correction, and pre-existing ocular discomfort, while a positive association was observed with female sex and retail work.
Although the results of this survey showed that most people reported no change in ocular symptoms while wearing a face mask, a significant proportion reported an increase in ocular discomfort when wearing a face mask. As face masks are necessary to slow down the spread of COVID-19, it is important not to underestimate all symptoms that could discourage the population from using them. Eye care professionals should verify the presence of clinical signs in all patients complaining about mask-induced eye discomfort, and suggest methods to mitigate this condition.