The Ultimate Guide to Warm Compresses
Nov 10, 2020
Are your eyes feeling dry and gritty today? Are they scratchy? Or, do you feel like there's something in them all the time? These are common symptoms my patients come to see me about. And, there's something that you can do to help.
Studies say that about 85% of dry eye sufferers have some kind of dysfunction of their oil glands. If your eyes are scratchy or feel like they've got something in them all the time, then a warm compress will help. This is a simple step that can help those tired eyes feel more comfortable.
What are Warm Compresses Used For?
A warm compress heats up the oil glands inside your eyelids, and the heat melts the oil that are clogged in there. The oil can then flow out and onto your eyes. The oil glands play an important role in keeping your eyes healthy and your vision clear. These oil glands are also called Meibomian Glands.
As you can see in the picture provided, these glands are like tubes. There are 30 of these glands on the lower lid and 20 of them in the upper lids. The oil is produced at the bottom of the tube and the oil is released at the top. In most dry eye patients, some portion of the top of the tube is clogged with hardened oils.
The hardened oils do not allow the liquid oil to be released from the gland to coat the tears. So, your tears evaporate too quickly into the air. When you do a warm compress, you are melting that clogged oil. When the oil is released it coats the tears and makes your eyes feel more comfortable.
Doing a warm compress is essentially applying some type of heat on your eyelids for 8 to 12 minutes to help melt the oil trapped inside your oil glands. It is best to use them twice a day. If you are someone who likes to meditate or have a period of quiet time before going to bed or in the early mornings, then this is the perfect time to incorporate a warm compress into your daily schedule.
Can't I Just Use a Warm Washcloth?
No, a washcloth does not hold heat as well as an eye mask. There are two types of warm compresses readily available. The first one is a microwaveable mask. This type has some beads in it that release moisture. There are many different brands on the market. I like one called a Bruder mask
You put this in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds and let it heat up. Ideally, you want the temperature to be about 108 degrees F. That's the temperature that will melt the oil that's inside the eyelids. Once you get this mask nice and warm, you'll put it over your eyelids and let it stay there for 10 to 12 minutes.
The heat melts the oil and allows it to seep out of the lid and get onto your eyes. The oils coat the tears. So there are two options. You can use the microwaveable mask, or you can use this electric mask.
The electric mask plugs into a USB port. It heats up and will stay warm with a timer. I recommend setting it at 108* for 10 minutes. The timer is nice because you can put the mask over your eyes and not worry about falling asleep with it on. The timer will shut off the heat for you. This is very convenient for those who travel. Let me go over the pros and cons of both types.
Pros and Cons of Microwavable vs. Electric Eye Masks
Microwaveable mask VS Electric Mask
Reusable YES YES
Washable YES YES*
Heats to 108 degrees YES YES
Stays 108* for 10 min NO YES
Automatic timer NO YES
Needs electricity MICROWAVE USB PORT
Moist Heat YES NO
*Not all electric masks are washable. Check the packaging to make sure. The Heated Mask by Hiverst
has a removable cover.
What Else Can I Do to Help My Dry Eyes?
After 10 minutes of warm compresses, do an eyelid massage. You just want to take your fingertips and just roll them up towards the lashes on the bottom lid and down towards the lashes on the top lid. The message will help to express the warm oil out of those oil glands and get that more oil onto the front surface of your eye.
The warm compresses are an easy and inexpensive way to help these glands release more oil. Most of the time they also make the patient feel better which makes it an effective way to help a dry eye patient.
There are 5 Steps to getting the best results from doing warm eyelid compresses:
- Make sure the mask heats up to at least 108*F.
- Leave the mask on the eyelids for 10 minutes.
- Use the compresses twice a day.
- Follow the compresses with a gentle eyelid massage.
- Use a dry eye supplement like HydroEye to give your body the nutrients it needs to produce healthy tears.
Getting the oils out of your eyelids and onto your eye will help your eye to both feel more comfortable and see more clearly. Here's to your whiter, brighter eyes. Cheers!