To evaluate the impact of prolonged surgical face mask wearing on dry eye symptoms and tear film break-up time (T-BUT) in health care professionals.
A total of 33 health care professionals were included in the present cross sectional prospective study. In addition to a complete ophthalmological examination T-BUT measurements were performed twice for all participants in the morning (8 am) and in the afternoon (5 pm). The subjects also filled-in the ocular surface disease index (OSDI) questionnaire twice, before and after wearing the face mask, on the same day.
Sixty-six eyes of 33 participants (17 female and 16 male) were evaluated. The mean age was 33.6 ± 7.55 (24-48) years and mean total duration with mask on between the two evaluations was 514 ± 12.5 (495-526) minutes. The mean T-BUT was 9.3 ± 1.0 (3-16) seconds at 8 am and 8.3 ± 1.5 (3-14) seconds at 5 pm (p = 0.01). The mean OSDI score was 20.1 ± 8.3 (0-68.75) at 8 am and 27.4 ± 10.4 (0-81.25) at 5 pm (p < 0.01).
Use of a surgical mask for the entire work-day was seen to worsen T-BUT and increase dry eye symptoms in healthy individuals. Ophthalmologists should be aware of the possibility of worsening of dry eye symptoms with the prolonged use of surgical face masks and consider modifications if necessary.

© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.