Eye doctors warns of new mask-related condition, effects of remote learning on kids' sight

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Though face coverings are a necessary tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, doctors warned they might be causing an eye condition.

Experts from the Centre for Ocular Research & Education are warning of mask-associated dry eye, or MADE.

Raleigh optometrist office Stonehenge Vision Source has been fielding calls from folks suffering from similar symptoms.

"People complaining about a sandy, gritty sensation, a burning sensation, red eyes, tearing, sometime blurry vision," said Dr. Amorette Hanna, who works at Stonehenge.

Hanna said the symptoms can happen when a cloth mask doesn't quite hug the contours of the face, creating a gap between your skin and the cloth. Then, when you exhale, air goes up through the opening and dries out the surface of the eye.

She suggested getting a mask with a little wire inside that can give you a snug fit around the bridge of your nose.

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Eye experts added that increased screen time can also put strain on eyes, especially for children.

"We do have a lot of parents coming in asking about that," said Hanna.

Many school districts are providing chrome books or tablets to students, since classroom learning is no longer an option during COVID-19. Children are now sitting all day long, staring at a computer for virtual school.

"We just blink less. We blink less completely, less often at the computer or any other digital device," said Hanna.

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Hanna encouraged parents to give their kids frequent breaks to help them avoid a permanent condition.

"Near-sightedness is increasing over time. They predict in 2050, half the world's population is going to be near-sighted, and so they're finding that near work (on a computer or tablet) could be potentially something that causes progression in that," said Hanna.

Hanna suggests parents use the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes your child spends staring at a screen, they should spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.

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