New Study Shows Contact Lenses Perform Better with Mask Wear Rather Than Spectacles

New Study Shows Contact Lenses Perform Better with Mask Wear Rather Than Spectacles

November 10, 2021

According to a new study, contact lens wear offers an option for a better vision correction experience than spectacles when used with face masks, and this is likely to improve mask adherence. The study was supported with a grant from CooperVision.

Conducted by Eurolens Research at the University of Manchester, this is the first study to examine the use of any sort of face mask with the two types of vision correction.

The study’s corresponding paper Using face masks with spectacles versus contact lenses (Maldonado-Codina C, et al.) is now is now in press with Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, the peer reviewed journal of the British Contact Lens Association. It can be downloaded at no charge via Open Access.

“Since mask wear became widespread in early 2020, anecdotal reports of problems with fogging when wearing spectacles have been common. Our work agreed with these reports and revealed additional aspects of mask wear and visual correction that favor contact lens prescribing,” Carole Maldonado-Codina, the paper’s lead author, said in a CooperVision news release.

Thirty study participants, all of whom were regular spectacle wearers with no prior contact lens use, were randomly assigned to continue in spectacles (n=15) or wear somofilcon - a daily disposable contact lenses (n=15).

On four or more days each week, a surgical face mask (Type II R) was worn for at least one hour.

After two weeks, participants completed the Quality of Life Impact of Refractive Correction (QIRC) questionnaire and a two-part face mask usability questionnaire, as well as visual analog grading scales (VAS) to assess their ocular-related symptoms.

Individual QIRC responses revealed statistically significant differences in enjoying outdoor activity, participating in fitness, and the ability to "do the things you want to do."

The contact lens group received better results.

For face mask usability, the study showed statistically significant differences again favoring contact lens wear for breathability, heat, comfort on ear lobes, and overall comfort.

The authors of the research discuss how wearing masks and spectacles alters behaviors and perceptions, such as disrupting regular breathing patterns to minimize fogging and experiencing a 'hot' sensation from humid exhalation lingering behind spectacle lenses.

The second portion of the face mask questionnaire revealed that contact lenses received higher subjective ratings in several areas, including walking, driving, reading, computer use, exercising, and socializing.

At follow-up visits, the somofilcon had significantly higher subjective VAS scores for ocular-related problems. Distance vision, close vision, glare, fogging, restricted field of view, and peripheral blur were all better with daily disposable contact lenses than with spectacles.

There were no differences in dryness, comfort, or redness between the groups. This implies that the symptoms of mask-associated dry eye (MADE) are similar when somofilcon is used.

Face masks are used with daily disposable contact lenses or spectacles, thus there is no visible 'protective' effect from wearing spectacles.

Every other evening, a short messaging service (SMS) text was delivered to each participant's mobile phone to capture a score for the overall performance of their vision correction at the time of reception. There was a statistically significant difference in favor of contact lenses.

The authors point out that problems with face masks prevent proper use and may even lead to mask abandonment, which could result in reduced levels of protection against COVID-19 and other viruses.

This is especially important for health care professionals who must wear proper masks for lengthy periods of time in order to meet clinical infection control guidelines.

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.”

“Eye care professionals should consider discussing these findings with all of their patients, even those who have never tried contact lenses before. 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,” said Dr. Maldonado-Codina.