Impacts of protective face masks on ocular surface symptoms among healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic
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Background To assess the impacts of prolonged protective face masks (PFM) wear on ocular surface symptoms among healthcare professionals (HCPs), and how these symptoms affected PFM wear. Methods Thirty-question survey forms were distributed via social media platform to 396 HCPs (110 doctors, 164 nurses, and 122 health technicians) between September 8 and 30, 2021. Participants who could not be reached via social media were given a face-to-face questionnaire. Aside from sociodemographic data, the questionnaire inquired about PFM wear, PFM types, ocular surface symptoms, and how PFM wear has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results A total of 74.5% of HCPs reported wearing PFMs, mostly surgical ones (76.8%), for half a day at work but not at home, with redness (29.3%) being the most frequently encountered ocular surface symptom, followed by burning (15.7%), pain (14.1%), tingling (10.9%), and rash (6.6%). The presence of associated restrictions in conjunction with PFM-related ocular symptoms was more likely in dry and hot environments. There was no significant relationship between PFM type, PFM-wearing duration, and HCPs’ daily activities (p > 0.05). Despite the lack of a significant relationship between PFM types and ocular surface symptoms (p > 0.05), there was a significant relationship between PFM-wearing duration and ocular pain (p < 0.05). Conclusions PFM-related ocular surface symptoms can be alleviated by properly wearing PFMs, reducing wear time, and using long-acting topical lubricants. This could improve PFM wear compliance, prevent disease transmission, and ultimately help with COVID-19 protection.