As long as you use the right equipment for scuba diving, it can be a very safe pastime. That being, water pressure can do some weird things to your body.
It doesn’t matter if you just scuba dive, free diver or do a little of both, it’s likely that you’ve heard of and maybe even experienced or come across someone that’s suffered from mask squeeze. It’s also known as face squeeze. The name really doesn’t do it justice, as it can feel more like a suck from the mask than just a squeeze.
To help you understand more about mask squeeze, what it is, what causes it and how to treat and even prevent it, we’ll look at the intriguing problem in greater detail below.
What Exactly is Mask Squeeze?
Just as you need to equalize the air spaces in your ears and sinuses, you need to do the same within your diving mask as you descend underwater.
However, if you don’t equalize it or add unnecessary amounts of air to your mask by using your nose to exhale, it creates an unbalanced pressure between the blood vessels in your face’s vascular pressure and the air space in the mask.
The result of this unbalance can be facial barotrauma of varying degrees of severity. Otherwise known as soft tissue injury to the parts of your face covered by the mask.
Think, without getting squeamish, of your face is like a suction cup. The soft tissues in your face start to swell around your eyes (periorbital edema) and cause discoloration in the form of bruising or redness.
Can Mask Squeeze Be Treated?
The good news is that, unless you are suffering from serious vision problems or eye pains, there is no treatment that can be used for facial barotrauma. You just need to be patient and give it time.
As it’s essentially a bruise, the effects of the mask squeeze will eventually be reabsorbed by your body. If you do have any visual issues such as losing part of your visual field or if you experience blurred vision or any other pain in your eyes, you should speak to an eye specialist or your doctor.
Don’t worry though, as these kinds of symptoms are a rare occurrence in people with mask squeeze.
The downside is that, while it’s not serious, it’s a condition that looks quite dramatic and it takes at least two weeks and possibly more to heal.
You need to give it time for the edema and blood to be reabsorbed, but as it’s dependent on gravity, the effects will spread down your face. If you’ve ever wondered what it might feel like to look like a beaten-up boxer or a B-movie creature, mask squeeze will give you that experience!
Who is Most Susceptible to Mask Squeeze?
Newer divers are more likely to get mask squeeze, just because they are trying to learn the different skills necessary to be a competent diver. All the while coping with the sheer majesty and wonder of life in the deep.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that experienced divers cannot get mask squeeze. Many get mask squeeze if they are too focused on a particular task and don’t pay full attention to clearing their mask or are learning/trying to hone a new skill.
Another way you can fall prey to mask squeeze, regardless of your level of experience is by changing from a low-volume mask to a brand-new one.
This normally happens if you are not fully aware of when you need to add air. Equalizing issues can just as simply because by masks that don’t fit properly or having facial hair.
Prevention is the Key
One of the best ways to deal with mask squeeze, of course, is to prevent it from happening. The key is to keep in mind that your nasal passages need to be open while you descend.
When you wear a mask that fits properly and exhale through your nose, you will greatly reduce the chances of suffering from facial barotrauma.
On the subject of masks, they should fit gently against your face and it should be easy to make a seral just by inhaling through your nose and pressing it against your face. The mask should stay in place and not even fall if there’s no strap.
If you have facial hair, you may experience some leakage. Don’t worry, as this is completely normal. You can counter the water in your mask by tilting your head to the surface while cracking the mask’s lower seal and exhaling through your nose.