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Mask Missteps

By taking a few minutes to put on your mask correctly, you're helping yourself and those around you.

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Halfpoint Images/ Getty Images
Halfpoint Images/ Getty Images

Who ever thought the glorious and essential PPE equipment we have now so reluctantly welcomed into our fashion ensembles, could ever cause us harm?

As we are getting used to, or more like getting frustrated with, living with variations of these dreaded masks, there has been a curious phenomenon stemming from constant ppe mask usage – people are now getting physically injured because of them.

Whether due to excessive condensation fogging up on your glasses (if you wear them) or loosening from sweat and constant shifting throughout the course of the day, ppe masks are not the most practical fashion accessory.

Recently, we have had an influx of patients injuring their foot/ankles due to falls, reporting of not being able to see properly due to the mask obscuring their depth perception, disorienting them in the process, and causing them to misstep and injure themselves.


Dr. Sandra Belmont, Clinical Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at New York University School of Medicine states that “all medical students are instructed on how to properly wear a procedure or medical face mask but nowadays everyone needs to know how to use them.  There is a top part and a bottom part to the mask.  The top has a wire that runs along its length. Putting the mask on and simply letting it sit on top of one’s eyeglasses, even with the mask right side up will cause the lenses to fog up.  Glasses must be taken off first, then as one loops the elastics over the ears, press down on the wire to bend and adapt it so that it will fit tightly over the bridge of the nose and all along the face.  This will prevent air from leaking through and allow the mask to fit under the eyeglasses so they won’t fog up.”

With liquor stores being one of the only types of ‘essential’ stores being open with the lockdown, this issue has the potential of becoming even more precarious as we enter into some iteration of summer.

Dr. Belmont further adds that “if the mask is not properly positioned and one lens in your eyeglasses gets foggy there will be a loss of stereopsis.  Our brains superimpose the images from our right and left eyes to produce a 3-dimensional image, or stereopsis.  This depth perception allows us to intuitively gauge where to place our feet as we walk up or down a flight of stairs for instance, or step off a curb.  A loss of stereopsis from improper use of a mask can result in a bad fall and possible injury.  This should in no way however, dissuade from public use of face masks in the current pandemic.  

Use of face masks is currently mandated in many places including New York City, so take a few minutes to put on the mask correctly and keep yourself safe. Senior citizens should be particularly careful when wearing masks and walking down stairs as they are at increased risks of balance issues and falls. 

Dr. Rock G. Positano and Dr. Rock CJay Positano are co-directors of the Non-surgical Foot and Ankle Center at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

Dr. Rock G. Positano is Associate Clinical Professor on the faculty of the Yale School of Public Health.

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