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Can Eye Masks Help with Dry Eyes?

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A young woman lying with an eye mask on both eyes to relieve dry eyes

If we’re being honest, no one will say they enjoy the feeling of dry eyes, and you’re not alone if you’re familiar with this discomfort. Dry eye is a condition that affects millions, with as varied causes as the potential symptoms it can produce.

Eye masks are one potential solution for dry eyes. But there isn’t always a one-size-fits-all answer for getting relief for irritated, dry eyes. If you’re experiencing persistent dry eye symptoms that don’t subside after trying home remedies like an eye mask or lubricating eye drops, you should book an appointment with your eye doctor.

Understanding Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome, commonly known as dry eye, is a condition characterized by a lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the eye’s surface. This lack can be caused by inadequate tear production or poor-quality tears.

Dry Eye Causes

Many things can trigger dry eyes, ranging from environmental to medical. Blinking is a natural mechanism that keeps the eyes moist. Still, factors such as prolonged screen time, aging, certain medications, and underlying medical conditions can inhibit this process, leaving our eyes parched and desperate for hydration.

Dry Eye Symptoms

Dry eye symptoms go beyond mere annoyance, sometimes veering into painful territory. Redness, burning, excessive tearing, and a feeling that there’s something in your eye when there isn’t are possible dry eye symptoms.

Benefits of Eye Masks

Eye masks might seem like nothing more than a luxurious spa day companion on the surface, but for dry eyes, they could be a game changer. Here’s why you may want to consider masking up for comfort.

Moisture Retention

One of the primary complaints of dry eye sufferers is the rapid evaporation of the tear film, which keeps the eyes wet. Eye masks, especially those specifically designed for moisture, can slow this process down, creating a micro-environment for the eyes to refresh and revive.

Relaxing Strained Eyes

The consistent and prolonged focus required for digital screens can lead to strained eyes. Put on an eye mask, and you’re not only shrouding your eyes from light and the temptation to check your phone, but you’re also assisting in relaxing those hard-working ocular muscles.

Stress Relief

The gentle pressure of an eye mask can be a cue for more than just your eyes. Stress can play a role in exacerbating dry eye symptoms, and it often subsides when we give ourselves time to relax. The dimming effect of an eye mask helps create this tranquil setting for a moment of peace, which can indirectly help alleviate dry eye discomfort.

Types of Eye Masks

Not all eye masks are created equal, and the type you choose can impact the relief you seek. From gel-filled to heated, here’s a selection of the most common choices.

Gel Masks

Gel masks are typically easy for many people to access. Cool and heated varieties offer the best of both temperatures for relieving dry eye symptoms.

Heated Masks

Heated masks help to increase blood flow and provide a soothing heat to tense muscles around the eyes, contributing to a more relaxed state. Some of these masks are heated in the microwave, while others are self-heating.

Sleep Shield Hydrating Masks

A sleep shield hydrating mask is worn while sleeping, and lightly seals around the eye. This helps to retain moisture in the eyes, and is beneficial for people that experience eye dryness due to the eyes being partially open at night – whether it be due to anatomy, surgical consequences of the lids, or other traumatic issues that result in exposure dryness.

Tips for Using Eye Masks Effectively

As with any tool, knowing how to use it is as important as owning it. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your eye mask experience.


Finding the correct schedule and duration that works for you is a bit of a trial-and-error dance. But follow your eye doctor’s and all manufacturer’s instructions for the mask you’re using. For example, a heated mask will likely have a specific time limit recommendation for each use.

Proper Fit

Not every mask is one-size-fits-all, and neither is how you apply it. It’s important to gently place an eye mask over your eyes to make sure your eyelids aren’t contending with too much pressure. 

A woman in an optical clinic shaking hands with her optometrist

Talk to Your Eye Doctor About Your Dry Eyes

In the grand jigsaw of combative measures against dry eyes, eye masks might be the missing piece for some. They’re safe and non-invasive, and given the benefits they can offer, they’re a worthy consideration in the quest for comfort. 

But it’s important to note that dry eye relief rarely has a one-size-fits-all answer, so eye masks may not be the answer. So, it’s time to visit your eye doctor if you’ve tried them and still experience persistent symptoms.Call our team at Discover Eyecare today to book an appointment at one of our locations. One of our experienced optometrists can discuss your symptoms with you, examine your eyes, and offer a tailored treatment plan to bring you effective relief.

Written by Dr. Jonathan Laudadio

Jonathan was born and raised in Quebec. He moved to Abbotsford, BC, where he attended high school before moving on to UBC for his undergrad. Jonathan completed his Doctorate of Optometry at the Université de Montréal in 2004 with some training at the Portland VA Medical Centre. He has been in private practice since graduating and has worked six years in a laser surgery/ophthalmology clinic. He is a very proud father of 2 girls, plays sports, loves his Montreal Canadiens, and baseball.
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