If you're suffering from red, burning, irritated eyes, warm compresses work really well. In this blog, I will show you how to do warm compresses at home to get relief from your dry eyes.
Dry eye is one of the most common conditions I see in practice. The studies estimate that between 1 in 20 to 10 in every 20 people suffer from dry eyes(1). Especially where I live and practice in Saskatchewan, Canada, we have a very dry climate. Because of the dry climate, our practice is on the high end of that range. Many, many patients complain about their eyes being sore, burning, red, and watery.
Of course, many people use dry eye drops to get relief from dry eyes. Still, we can use remedies at home to get relief, and warm compresses are one of the most helpful.
Be sure to read until the end, where I will go through other ways to get relief from dry eyes without eye drops.
A short anatomy lesson helps make this make sense. The lacrimal gland sits up underneath your eyebrow, and this gland produces the watery component of your tears. Tears also have an oily component, and this component comes from the eyelids near the base of your eyelashes. This oil, called meibum, makes a protective barrier for the tears on the surface of the eye. The vast majority of people suffer from dry eyes because this oil component is of poor quality. As a result, your tears evaporate too fast, and your eyes feel crappy.
When people are suffering from dry eyes, the melting point of their oils (meibum) has been increased (sometimes up to 45C)(2). At the average temperature of the eye's surface (32C), the meibum oils are solid. Warm compresses work by melting the oil, so it can make its way to the surface of your eye and then your eyelid can start producing new oil from scratch.
Hot compresses with a facecloth and hot water don't get the eyelid hot enough to melt the oils.
This is how to do effective hot compresses:
The bundle method(3):
1. Dampen 5-6 facecloths with warm water and ring them out.
2. Fold them into rectangles.
3. Roll up one town into a bit of cylinder, then roll the other towels around to make a bundle.
4. Microwave the bundle for 90 seconds.
5. Put the bundle on your eyes.
6. Every 2 minutes, remove the outer towel.
Use an eye mask:
There are many eye masks: Bruder, TheraPearl, Tranquileyes, MGDRx Eye Bag, and The Eye Doctor. All of these options can get up to the needed temperature for long enough to increase the microwave for 20-30 seconds(4). Test the temperature, so you don't burn yourself. Then put it on your eyes for at least 10 minutes to make sure you melt those oils and get the most of your hot compress.
In addition to a hot compress, you can do many other things to get relief from dry eyes. You can lower the height of your computer screen so that your eye isn't open as wide.
Increasing the humidity of the air around you helps a lot too. There are humidifiers that you can put at your desk during work. Running a humidifier beside the bed helps a lot, especially if you're the type of person that finds their dry eyes to be worst in the morning when you wake up.
Omega 3 supplements are also very effective at helping dry eye symptoms. With omega 3 supplements, it takes a few months for you to notice any results. Still, the medical evidence is very strong in support of omega 3.
Hot compresses are an effective home remedy for dry eyes, but there are some tricks to getting the most bang for your buck with it! If you found this blog helpful, please like and share.
1. Stapleton F, Alves M, Bunya VY, et al. TFOS DEWS II Epidemiology Report. Tear Film and Ocular Surface. 2017;15(3).
2. Bron AJ, Tiffany JM, Gouveia SM, Yokoi N, Voon LW. Functional aspects of the tear film lipid layer. Experimental Eye Research. 2004;78(3):347-360.
3. Blackie CA, Solomon Jd Fau - Greiner JV, Greiner Jv Fau - Holmes M, Holmes M Fau - Korb DR, Korb DR. Inner eyelid surface temperature as a function of warm compress methodology. (1040-5488 (Print)).
4. Lacroix Z, Léger S, Bitton E. Ex vivo heat retention of different eyelid warming masks. Contact lens & anterior eye : the journal of the British Contact Lens Association. 2015;38(3):152-156.