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Face Masks and Foggy Glasses: A COVID Consequence

photo of foggy glasses

Oct. 20, 2020 -- “This affects my overall quality of life.”

Nekita Shelton, 36, of Columbia, MD, has worn glasses uneventfully since she was 9 years old.

But things changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit and wearing a mask in public became mandatory in most states.

“My experience with wearing a mask and my glasses fogging has been very frustrating,” she says. “I want to protect myself against the virus at all cost, but either I can’t see when I’m walking through the store or I have to take my glasses off to be able to function properly. Who wants to continue to walk through a store when your glasses continue to keep fogging up? This happens every single time that I put on a mask.”

She’s tried different remedies, tips from friends, and social media. She’s consulted the experts and her eye doctor.

“I recently was in [retail chain] Warby Parker last weekend, just to see if there’s anything I can do, and they gave me the cloth wipes that they had, to see if that helps,” she says. “They also suggested that before you put your mask on, dip your glasses in warm water because it will alleviate the fog.”

Sidney Gicheru, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and an ophthalmologist with Laser Care Eye Center in Dallas, says this has been a dilemma.

“It’s a common problem that every ophthalmologist in the U.S. and probably around the world is dealing with right now, and we don’t have a perfect solution,” he says. “It has to do with the mask allowing moisture from our breath to be directed through the top of the mask onto the glasses. That moisture collects on the glasses and results in the fog.”

“There’s not a magic bullet,” he says, “And the amount of fogging really depends on the mask, the glasses, and on the facial structure of the patient. Thus, some patients have a lot more trouble with it than others.”

Minimize that Fog

James Wrenn, 28, has worn glasses since the fourth grade. His problems with fogging are greatest when he’s working out or doing other strenuous activities.

“The way I position the glasses is always to minimize that fog,” he says. “I wear my mask so high on my face so that my glasses sit over top.”

“If I go with the more fabric-based mask that hugs the face tighter, I can get more of a flush seal from nose to chin that kind of prohibits that steam from coming up into that eyeglass frame,” he says.

The internet is full of ads touting anti-fog sprays, cloths, creams, and wipes. There are popular home remedies, like dishwashing liquids or shaving creams, and Shelton has tried most.

“I had an allergic reaction to the shaving cream,” she says. “I’m looking for a permanent resolution.”

Remedies like soapy water and shaving cream create a thin film on the lenses that protect your glasses from temperature changes, which temporarily prevents what’s called surface tension, which causes glasses to fog up.

Companies like Warby Parker, a mega retail chain that sells prescription glasses and sunglasses online, offer a $15 Clean My Lenses Kit that features an anti-fog spray. Dozens of other brands are also available, many on sites like Amazon.

“One of the most questions we’ve received over the past few months is about how to prevent foggy lenses while wearing a face mask,” says Kim Nemser, chief merchandising officer at Warby Parker.

Why Glasses Fog

Roni Levin, MD, a surgeon and assistant professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says the key is having the right mask and the right fit.

"As an eye surgeon, for years I have been placing a strip of tape along the top of my surgical mask in the operating room to prevent my glasses or microscope from fogging,” she says. “I have now extended this practice to my patients, and often put a strip of tape along the top of their mask to prevent my lenses from fogging during the eye exam."

Levin believes that focusing on the proper seal is more important than focusing on these anti-fogging solutions.

"Address the cause of the fogging, which is poor mask seal. The purpose of the mask is to catch droplets and particles that are exiting your nose and mouth when you breathe,” she says.

You can tighten the straps of mask, use a mask with wire or metal that bends to the shape your nose, or place a strip of tape across the top of your mask.

Levin’s other tips include:

  • Resting your glasses over the top of your face mask so you have a tighter seal.
  • Rinsing your lenses with warm soapy water or a commercial defogging solution that is pH-balanced. Air dry them or use a clean dry cloth to dry. This leaves behind a thin film that keeps condensation from forming on the lenses.

But Gicheru and Levin urge caution when using some of these liquid solutions.

“One concern is that using home remedies or harsh solutions could damage the coating on the lens of your glasses,” Levin says. “Another concern is that if chemicals get in your eyes, this can cause irritation to the cornea or chemical conjunctivitis.”

Many Exploring Options

According to Gicheru, there has been an uptick in other options, like contact lenses and even surgery.

“What the patients tell me is that they are tired of dealing with the fog. Most LASIK surgeons have seen an increase in patients interested in laser vision correction, and surgical volume is up for a lot of us,” he says. Learn more about getting LASIK eye surgery during COVID-19.

For Shelton, wipes and sprays have been a temporary fix. Wearing a mask higher on the bridge of her nose and sitting her glasses on top is uncomfortable. So she, too, is making a change and has ordered contact lenses.

“Instead of the frustration when wearing my mask, contacts will alleviate stress, create a comfortable mask experience, and I don’t have to worry about fog when I’m talking in front of others,” she says “It’ll be a learning curve, because I haven’t worn contacts in a long time, but I’ve exhausted my options when it comes to trying to find something that will work with my glasses and my mask. Until the pandemic’s over, I think I’ll be wearing contacts or mixing it up between glasses and contacts.”

“I know it’s not a big deal,” she says, “But to us wearing glasses, it’s really bothering us.”

Gicheru feels her pain.

“It’s been a huge issue for patients. It’s also been an issue for doctors, and I can’t wait until it’s over with,” he says

WebMD Health News

Sources

Roni Levin, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Sidney Gicheru, MD, spokesperson, American Academy of Ophthalmology; ophthalmologist, Laser Care Eye Center, Dallas.

Nekita Shelton, senior analyst, Marketing Operations, Verizon.

James Wrenn, data analyst, General Service Administration (GSA).

Kim Nemser, chief merchandising officer, Warby Parker.

WarbyParker.com.

Wood magazine.

NPR/All Things Considered.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England: “A simple method to prevent spectacle lenses misting up on wearing a face mask,” March 2011.

Environmental Design+Construction: “The Best Anti-fog Sprays for 2020.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “5 tips to avoid foggy glasses while wearing a face mask.”

House Beautiful: “Warby Parker Created A Lens Spray To Prevent Foggy Glasses While Wearing A Face Mask.”

Bustle: “Glasses Getting Foggy? These Anti-Fog Formulas Will Keep Things Clear.”

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