At Hayden Optometry in Mansfield, Dr. Joel Hayden is busy with eye checks and eye styes, those annoying, sometimes painful small abscesses in oil glands, usually near the eyelash follicle.
Tell-tale signs of a sty include a small tender bump and tenderness of the lid.
“I probably see a week or more now, where I did not before,” Hayden said.
He and an optometrist in Boston's South End tell us they’ve been seeing more eye styes during the pandemic, and they think it's from mask wearing:
“I saw one this morning, patient wears a mask all day long having a sty," Hayden said.
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Doctors at Mass Eye and Ear, the Harvard teaching hospital, said they don’t see a direct link between masks and styes, but Hayden said it’s possible.
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“Probably one of the biggest things we're seeing is dry eyes from the masks, because were breathing and all the air is coming right up into our eyes,” he said.
The dryness may be the issue, he said: “My thought process is that it’s the dryness that’s causing those oil glands to close off, causing the sty.”
In a September article on how masks affect eyes, the American Optometric Association didn't discuss styes, but it did say that masks have brought a rise in dry eye and eye irritation.
Hayden said you can usually treat styes at home with a clean, warm compress, plus artificial tears to moisten the eyes. In some cases, antibiotic eye drops are prescribed.
Hayden said they are also seeing dry eyes from kids and adults looking at computer screens for long periods of time.
He recommended wearing blue light-blocking glasses.