A new study has established that wearing contact lenses offers better vision correction than spectacles when paired with face masks and doing so likely improves adherence to mask use.
Conducted by Eurolens Research at the University of Manchester and supported with a grant from CooperVision, the study is the first to compare the use of any type of face mask with the two types of vision correction.
Published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, the peer reviewed journal of the British Contact Lens Association, the study ‘Using face masks with spectacles versus contact lenses’ can be downloaded at no charge via Open Access.
Dr Carole Maldonado-Codina, senior lecturer in optometry at the University of Manchester and the paper’s lead author, said anecdotal reports of problems with fogging when wearing spectacles have been common since mask wear became widespread in early 2020.
“Our work agreed with these reports and revealed additional aspects of mask wear and visual correction that favour contact lens prescribing,” she said.
Thirty study participants – all habitual spectacles wearers with no history of contact lens use – were split into two groups of 15, randomised to continue in spectacles or wear somofilcon A daily disposable contact lenses.
A surgical face mask was worn for at least one hour per day on four or more days per week. After two weeks, participants completed a quality-of-life questionnaire and a two-part face mask usability questionnaire, as well as assessing their ocular-related symptoms with visual analogue grading scales.
For face mask usability, the study showed statistically significant differences favouring contact lens wear for breathability, heat, comfort on ear lobes, and overall comfort.
The second part of the face mask questionnaire similarly showed higher subjective ratings for contact lenses across multiple dimensions, including walking, driving, reading, computer use, exercising, and socialising.
Subjective scores for ocular-related symptoms at participant follow-up visits indicated significantly greater scores for the daily disposable contact lenses compared with the spectacle group for distance vision, near vision, glare, fogging, restricted field of view, and peripheral blur.
No differences were observed between groups for dryness, comfort, or redness. On this basis, the authors suggest that mask-associated dry eye (MADE)-related symptoms are similar when daily disposable contact lenses or spectacles are used with face masks.
The authors note that difficulties with face masks are a deterrent to correct use and could even cause mask abandonment, which may lead to lower levels of protection from COVID-19 and other viruses.
In their conclusion, the authors offer a clear recommendation, writing “the findings of this work suggest that where possible, contact lenses should be the preferred vision correction option for people using face masks.”
“Eyecare professionals should consider discussing these findings with all of their patients, even those who have never tried contact lenses before,” Maldonado-Codina said.
“Even if patients love their spectacles, there is an opportunity for dual wear, swapping their frames for contact lenses when they’ll be wearing a mask. It could be a relatively straightforward approach with positive implications for multiple aspects of a person’s daily life,” she said.