The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether tear film stability worsens with the use of masks in patients with dry eye disease, objectively analyzing the tear film stability using noninvasive tear film breakup time (NITBUT) with and without a face mask.
A cross-sectional study including patients with moderate or severe dry eye disease was conducted. Tear stability was measured using an Oculus Keratograph 5M (Oculus, Wetzlar, Germany), which records NITBUT, both first and average NITBUT. Two measurements were taken: an initial measurement with a mask and a second measurement after 10 minutes without wearing the face mask.
Thirty-one patients were included with a mean age of 57.6 ± 11.7 years (range 31-80) and 30 being female (97%). Mean first NITBUT with face mask was 6.2 ± 3.8 seconds (range 2.0-19.8), which increased to 7.8 ± 5.6 seconds (range 2.3-24.0) without the use of mask (P = 0.029), differences being -1.6 ± 0.7 seconds (CI 95% -3.1075 to -0.1770). Mean average NITBUT with a face mask was 12.3 ± 4.8 seconds (range 4.0-19.4) and increased to 13.8 ± 5 seconds (range 5.5-24.0) without the use of mask (P = 0.006), mean difference being -1.5 ± 0.5 seconds (CI 95% -2.5290 to -0.4458).
Face mask use decreases tear film stability in patients with moderate-to-severe dry eye.

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