As long as you use the right equipment and take all neccessary precautions, scuba diving is a very safe activity. That being said, water pressure can do some weird things to your body.
Have you ever come up from a dive with red markings on your face? It might be a mask squeeze. Also known as face squeeze, it can feel more like a suck from the dive mask than just a squeeze.
But why does it happen and how? Although it is not really dangerous, it’s important to be aware of this condition.
We look at the causes of this common side effect from using a scuba mask and how to prevent mask squeeze in more detail below.
What is Mask Squeeze?
Have you ever noticed the red lines that divers have around their faces? These lines are because of a mask squeeze. So, what is mask squeeze exactly?
A mask squeeze is an effect of lack of equilibrium of air pressure in the scuba divers mask. This causes the mask to sit extremely tightly around the face, resulting in the rupturing of smaller blood vessels.
Although this may not be as serious as the other risks in scuba diving, it is still something that should not be taken lightly.
Always remember the signs so you will be ready to handle a situation of mask squeeze if it ever arises.
Mask squeeze (eye barotrauma) symptoms are:
- Redness in the face and eyes
- Spots of blood seen in the sclera of the eye
- Vision changes
- Extreme pressure felt in the face
The good news is this can be avoided by taking some care.
How Does It Happen?
A mask squeeze or facial barotrauma can occur due to the following reasons.
A Mask That Doesn’t Fit
A mask that is either too small or too tight can be uncomfortable as it may start to squeeze against your face. So it is very important to have the right fitted size mask depending on your face shape.
Recommended Read: Best Scuba Diving Masks for Large Face
Being Way Too Conscious About Water In Your Mask
It is normal for a slight bit of water to enter your mask while you are diving. However, inexperienced divers can be easily frightened by this, and they may start to fidget with their masks.
If you want to get rid of the water in your mask, do not panic. Just look up so that your head is tilted up, and apply some pressure on the top of the mask and breathe out. This creates a little space at the bottom of your mask and lets the water out.
Diving Too Quickly
When you dive into the water from the boat, do not simply fall back. Make sure you slowly descend into the water. This keeps the pressure even at all times.
Not Breathing in While Diving
It is very important to breathe in while slowly descending into the water. As mentioned earlier, this helps in equalizing the pressure. To prevent a mask squeeze here, you can breathe out through your nose into the mask.
How to Prevent Mask Squeeze
A mask squeeze can be easily prevented if you take the right precautions. The simplest method to avoid getting a mask squeeze is by breathing through your nose as you keep descending into the water.
Also, remember to:
- Breathe normally. Do not try anything unordinary.
- Equalize scuba mask pressure and clear your ears.
- Avoid distractions, especially if you are a first-time diver.
- Stay calm. If you start to panic, alert your instructor.
- Dive when you are alert. Do not scuba dive if you feel tired.
- Stay sober. Too much alcohol will mess up your thinking, and you may forget the precautionary steps.
- Fit your mask perfectly. Do not put it on too tightly though, as the Boyle’s law is in action here.
- Dive in slowly. Do not rush the process of descending into the water.
Are Inexperienced Divers More Susceptible to Face Squeeze?
Yes, inexperienced divers and first-timers are more susceptible to getting a mask squeeze. Usually, they get distracted with their new gear or while acquainting themselves with the safety measures or protocols. As a result, they may forget about this and injure themselves later.
This can easily be avoided by breathing through the nose and into the mask.
Since it is not a major problem, there is no particular eye barotrauma treatment. It generally goes away on its own.
However, if you feel discomfort because of it, keeping an icepack or a cold towel on your face will help. It will quickly reduce any redness and bruises and will help in calming down your eyes.
If you experience any pain along with scars, mild painkillers are recommended as this will make you feel more comfortable.
How Long Does It Take To Heal?
A mask squeeze or facial barotrauma is a bruising that occurs on the skin and eyes. In most cases, the bruises clear up completely within a short span of two weeks.
However, the bruises tend to get worse before they get better. The side effects of facial barotrauma can also take up to two weeks to heal completely. The redness below the eyes usually changes to a yellowish-green color before fading away completely.
If you just went scuba diving and noticed red lines and spots on your face, don’t worry.
A mask squeeze is not a serious issue that one should be worried about. It usually fades away on its own with time, and it does not leave any scarring. You can also take mild painkillers if necessary.
However, until it heals, you might look like you’ve just been in a fight (you’ll have this look until the bruising fades away). That is why it is more of an embarrassment than it is dangerous.
In order to avoid a mask squeeze, make sure you get a scuba mask that fits you perfectly. Do not get one that is too tight. While descending into the ocean, make sure you breathe slowly through the nostrils. This will keep you safe from any discomfort that you might feel.
At any point of recovery, if you experience trouble with your vision or breathing, consult with your doctor immediately. Do not go for another scuba diving session until you’ve recovered completely.