Communication is key

How to communicate the importance of face masks to your patients whilst also considering eye care needs

Health professionals

This time last year, my only exposure to face masks was mainly through the wonderful virtual medium of television; from re-watching old episodes of Scrubs or ER, or through a more realistic lens, of people donning masks en masse, via news coverage of the SARS outbreak.

Fast forward to September 2020 and wearing a face mask has become as routine as brushing your teeth.

The reality is, face masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future. How we use, wear and dispose of them remains a topical talking point for all members of society.

For health professionals, communication has always been important, but it is even more so at present. They are often the first person a patient will come into contact with who can offer advice about how to resolve any issues they encounter with their masks.

As face masks become more entwined into our working and personal life, some issues concerning eye health have arisen.

In recent weeks, dry eye symptoms related to regular use of face masks has been reported and a study published in Ophthalmology and Therapy has also observed an increase in ocular irritation and dryness among regular mask users.

As such, the Centre for Ocular Research and Education (CORE), has shared advice for eye care professionals to recognise and help support patients experiencing dry-eye symptoms related to wearing a face mask, described as mask-associated dry eye (MADE).

Dr Lyndon Jones, director of CORE said: “We understand MADE and can address it — an opportunity for ECPs to further communicate their knowledge and ongoing value to patients at a time when sound, scientific guidance is needed more than ever.”

The guidance aims to provide clarity for ECPs. It also helps them to communicate with patients the importance of wearing a face mask to reduce to the spread of COVID-19 but also confidence in treating any symptoms of MADE.

You may have also recently come across clear face masks. They are transparent masks that ensure the face and mouth are visible. This week, the Government delivered 250,000 clear face masks to NHS trusts in order to help health and care workers to communicate with people with conditions such as hearing loss, autism and dementia through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

NHS trusts and social care providers will then allocate the masks. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed that optometrists can approach their Local Resilience Forums to be a part of the allocation process.

We want to hear from you about your experiences in practice with patients so please take a moment to take the OT poll below.

OT  asks...

Have you seen patients with eye concerns related to wearing a face mask?
  • Yes, I have seen patients experiencing mask-associated dry eye symptoms

    24 15%
  • Yes, I have seen patients experiencing other issues from wearing a mask

    52 32%
  • No, I have not seen any patients with eye concerns related to wearing a face mask

    84 52%