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College of Optometrists issues advice as part of National Eye Health Week

Are you struggling with your spectacles while wearing a face mask? Do your glasses mist up, or do your eyes feel dry? To mark National Eye Health Week (21-27 September), The College of Optometrists has issued advice on how you can wear a mask, maintain healthy eyes and see clearly.

Mask eye
As we get used to wearing masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, there has been an increase in people reporting eye discomfort while using face coverings. Optometrists in the UK refer to this as Mask Eye, or more technically ‘Face Mask-associated Ocular Irritation’.

The College of Optometrists advises that if you are affected by Mask Eye it is important that you continue to use a face covering or mask to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Below are some simple steps you can take to minimise eye discomfort: 

  • Ensure your mask sits firmly around the top and around the nose, so air is directed out of the sides of the face covering
  • Try using lubricating eye drops or spray, available from your optometrist or pharmacy
  • Try forced blinking every 20 minutes to naturally refresh your eyes. To do this simply blink frequently 3 or 4 times, then shut your eyes tightly for a few seconds
  • If you have any ongoing symptoms, speak to your local optometrist.

Watch the video:

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom, Clinical Adviser at the College of Optometrists explains; “As you breathe out, air is directed out of the top of your mask and is blown over the surface of your eye. This may result in your tears becoming disrupted and evaporating more quickly which can cause discomfort and a gritty feeling where your eyes may become watery and look red or sore. We know from our own research* that 22 percent of people noticed their vision deteriorate during lockdown, so we are urging these people and anyone who is having issues with their eyes to contact their local optometrist. All practices will be following government guidance and optometrists wearing PPE, to ensure that your visit is safe.”

Foggy specs
Many mask-wearers have issues with glasses misting or fogging up when using a face mask. Daniel explains; “Glasses get misty or foggy when warm air flows out of the top of your mask when you breathe out. The warm air flows over the cooler spectacle lenses causing condensation to form on the lens surface, resulting in misty vision. The moist air may also cause your glasses to slip around your nose making them less comfortable.”

There are some simple steps you can take, to help reduce the misting or fogging: (watch the video here)

  • Ensure your mask is the right shape and size for your face. A good fitting face covering will be snug, and air should be directed out the sides of the mask, not out of the top
  • Tighten the face cover or mask by crossing the ear loops
  • You could try taping the top of the face covering, to stop the air flowing out of the top of the mask, instead redirecting the air out of the side the face covering. Wide 2.5cm surgical tape works the best, half on the mask and half on your face, if you’re dextrous you can do it on the inside so you don’t even see the tape!
  • Ensure your spectacles are well-fitted. Glasses that slip down your nose or sit to far from your eyes are more likely to mist up
  • Keep the lenses clean and use a cleaning spray and microfibre cloth as recommended by your optometrist
  • Try an anti-fogging spray or wipes, available from your local optometrist
  • If you need to update your glasses, consider lenses with easy clean hydrophobic coating
  • If you still experience problems with persistent fogging, remember that contact lenses are safe to wear, there is no evidence that contact lens use increases your risk to COVID-19
  • Scrupulous hand washing, hand drying, and contact lens hygiene will ensure your eyes stay comfortable and healthy. Don’t touch your mouth, face or contact lenses with unwashed hands.

If you have any concerns about your vision, book an appointment with your local optometrist, you can find a directory of College members on our patient website

The College has created a series of patient-focused videos related to COVID-19 and eye care:


Notes to Editors

  1. The College is the professional body for optometry. It qualifies the profession and delivers the guidance and training to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care. We promote excellence through the College’s affixes, by building the evidence base for optometry, and raising awareness of the profession with the public, commissioners, and health care professionals.
  2. Members of the College are entitled to use the letters MCOptom or FCOptom (if they are a Fellow) after their name. Members must sign up to a code of conduct, so you can be confident that they are committed to the very highest clinical, ethical and professional standards.
  3. The survey results are from an online survey conducted by Opinium, with a sample of 2,000 nationally representative UK adults (18+), fieldwork took place from 9th to 11th June 2020. Results are available upon request.

September 21, 2020