Dry Eye Syndrome, Blepharitis, and Styes on the Rise due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The physicians at The Eye Institute of West Florida, along with eye doctors across Tampa Bay and the country, are noticing an uptick in some of the most common eye problems. These eye conditions (dry eye syndrome, styes and Blepharitis) can be associated with improper mask wearing and increased time spent in front of the computer. Affecting both children and adults, these eye problems can cause you to rub and touch your eyes excessively. This is an alarming development because it has been proven that COVID-19 can be transmitted through the ocular surface.
Please Note: The Eye Institute of West Florida is in no way discouraging people from wearing masks. We want to inform the public of issues that can arise from improper mask usage and increased time spent in front of screens.
Eye Problems to look out for
- Dry eye syndrome (DES) is the condition of having dry eyes. Associated symptoms include irritation, redness, discharge, and easily fatigued eyes. Blurred vision may also occur. The symptoms can range from mild and occasional to severe and continuous.
- A stye is a small, red, painful lump that grows from the base of your eyelash or under the eyelid. Most styes are caused by a bacterial infection.
- A chalazion is a swollen bump on the eyelid. It happens when the eyelid’s oil gland clogs up. As it grows, your eyelid may get red, swollen, and sometimes tender to touch. If the chalazion gets large, it can press on your eye and cause blurry vision.
- Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids in which they become red, irritated and itchy with dandruff-like scales that form on the eyelashes. It is a common eye disorder caused by either bacteria or a skin condition.
How these conditions are related to the COVID-19 pandemic
- When wearing an improperly-fitted mask, air expelled from breathing travels through the top of the mask and over the surface of your eyes. This movement of air dries out your eye’s tear film, a thin layer of fluid covering the eye’s surface, and speeds up evaporation.
- When staring at a screen (working or going to school from home most commonly), you blink less. Blinking is an important function that distributes tear film throughout the eye for proper lubrication. When the eye is not properly lubricated, it can dry out and become irritated. This is a well-studied and proven link to dry eye syndrome.
- Improperly-fitted masks may aggravate oil glands near the eye causing inflammation and the formation of styes, chalazia, and blepharitis.
What you can do to help
To help mitigate these problems, we encourage people to practice proper mask wearing protocol including wearing properly fitted masks. Your mask should fit snugly around your nose and along the sides of your face. When a mask fits properly (closes the the gap around the nose), air from exhaling is better contained within the mask. When a gap is present, air can leak out onto your eyes causing irritation leading to the above mentioned eye issues. Now that mask wearing has become the norm, people tend to be more conscience of their eyes and rub them excessively. Refraining from rubbing and touching your eyes is a best practice because it’s been proven COVID-19 can be spread through the eyes.
For more tips on proper mask wearing, visit the CDC’s website.
How we can help
The most important thing you can do if you are experiencing these problems is make an appointment with your eye doctor and follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing and mask wearing. The Eye Institute of West Florida, with over 45 years of serving the Tampa Bay area, has board-certified specialists in every eye condition. Dr. Neel Desai and Dr. Brandon Clair are two highly-credentialed experts with experience in treating COVID-19 related eye problems. Neel R. Desai, M.D. is a board-certified ophthalmologist with specialization in diseases of the cornea including Dry Eye Syndrome. His pioneering treatment approach includes the application of the latest technologies from his own peer-reviewed research and publication of the disease. Brandon C. Clair, M.D. is a board-eligible ophthalmologist with specialization in oculofacial reconstructive surgery. His training makes him an expert in conditions affecting the eyelid including styes, chalazia, and blepharitis.
Contact us at (727) 581-8706 or click here to schedule a consultation for your eye related issues