Have you ever come up from a dive with red markings around your face? It might be a mask squeeze. But why does it happen, and how? We look at the causes of this common problem and how to prevent mask squeeze below.
What is Mask Squeeze?
As we descend under the surface of the water, the pressure increases on our bodies and airspaces. This pressure creates a squeeze in the airspaces, one of which, is the airspace in a mask. Mask squeeze or face squeeze is caused by failing to equalize the airspace in a mask. This can then cause bruising, pain, swelling, and barotrauma around the eyes.
How to Prevent Mask Squeeze
It is super simple to prevent mask squeeze. All you have to do is gently exhale or blow your nose occasionally as you descend. This will equalize the airspace in the mask to the pressure outside of the mask.
The most common way of preventing mask squeeze is when you equalize your ears and sinuses by using the Valsalva maneuver. This is when you pinch your nostril and blow against it gently. When you use this method to equalize your ears, you end up blowing that air into your mask too, thus, equalizing the pressure.
Another way to prevent mask squeeze is to ensure your scuba mask is not too tight on your head. Many new divers have a fear of water leaking into their mask during a dive so their instinct is to pull the mask strap tight. However, when a mask is too tight on your face, it can be difficult to equalize this airspace by exhaling through your nose.
Pro Tip: According to Boyle’s Law in scuba diving, the mask will vacuum seal to your face under the pressure of the water. Therefore, the deeper you go, the more your mask sticks onto your face! The mask strap is actually not needed underwater, and this can be as loose as possible!
Sometimes you may even be preventing mask squeeze without realizing it! When you clear your mask by exhaling from the nose, you are also equalizing that airspace. So if you clear your mask during the descent, you are actually preventing mask squeeze!
Read More: Mask Clearing Tips and Tricks
If you do end up with mask squeeze, then you may have the following barotrauma symptoms.
- Red eyes or face
- Facial bruising or around the eyes
- Facial pressure and sensitivity
- Changes in vision (rare)
If you experience severe pain or loss of vision then you should consult your doctor.
Mask Squeeze Treatment
To treat mask squeeze, you can place a warm compress or ice over the face to treat the bruising. Mild painkillers can also be used if there is facial pain.
You should also avoid diving for a few days. Because mask squeeze is in effect, a bruising around your eyes, the body will break down and reabsorb the blood over time. So be patient, let your face recover, and follow our tips on how to prevent mask squeeze for your next dive!