Warm Compress for Dry Eyes: How to Make and Use Them (2023)

A warm compress for dry eyes can help relieve your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable, even if it’s not always able to fully treat the cause.

Dry eye syndrome happens when you experience dry eyes because your tears aren’t lubricating your eyes well enough or because you aren’t producing enough tears.

Some common symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:

Dry eye syndrome can have many causes — from allergies and dry air to aging or medical conditions that can affect your body’s ability to produce tears.

Read on to learn how warm compresses work for dry eye and how to make a warm compress yourself.

A warm compress helps reduce dry eye symptoms by:

  • bringing moisture from steam and liquid to the eyeball and eye area to help you produce tears
  • loosening or unclogging oil glands that produce meibum, a fatty compound that coats the healthy tear film to delay evaporation
  • reducing eye twitching from muscle spasms that result from extremely dry eyes
  • relieving pain and reducing swelling by increasing blood flow to eyes and surrounding tissues, especially if you have blood vessel abnormalities that can affect tear production

Are warm or cold compresses best for dry eyes?

Warm compresses are usually more effective than cold compresses for dry eyes.

Warmth opens up blood vessels and increases blood flow to help relieve eye pain and swelling. Warmth and moisture can also loosen up constricted or clogged oil glands. This helps increase your production of meibum, a fatty compound that helps your tears lubricate your eyes more effectively.

A small 2021 study also suggested that warmth helps stimulate meibum production if you have meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). MGD happens because of inflammation or damage in the eyelids and eye tissues. It can cause recurring dry eyes that also increase your risk of further inflammation or damage.

Cold compresses are effective for acute eye pain or injuries by reducing swelling and decreasing blood flow to cuts. But a cold compress can reduce oil and tear production and contribute to dry eye symptoms.

Here’s what you’ll need to make a warm compress for dry eyes at home:

  • a clean bowl or container to hold warm water
  • one to two clean washcloths or small towels
  • a plastic bag that you can zip or seal shut
  • a microwave
  • 10 to 15 minutes of time to close your eyes

Now, here’s one way to quickly make a warm compress:

  1. Fill the bowl or container with warm water that’s not too hot to the touch.
  2. Dip the washcloth or towel into the warm water until it’s soaked through.
  3. Lift the washcloth out of the water and wring out excess water.
  4. Fold the washcloth in half or until it’s a size that will cover both eyes.

Depending on your materials, you can also try this method:

  1. Moisten the washcloths or towels using cold water.
  2. Put one of the washcloths in the plastic bag, but don’t seal the bag yet.
  3. Put the washcloth and bag into the microwave for about 2 minutes.
  4. Take the washcloth out of the microwave and seal it immediately. Be careful not to burn or scald yourself.
  5. Wrap the second moist washcloth around the sealed bag.

Here’s how to use your warm compress:

  1. Sit back or lie down so that the washcloth will stay in place.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Lay the washcloth over both eyes so that you cover the entire area around each eye.
  4. Let the washcloth sit on your eyes for 5 to 10 minutes or until it’s not warm anymore.

Here are some tips to use your warm compress safely:

  • Use clean washcloths or towels that you do not use for other purposes, such as dusting or cleaning with chemicals.
  • Don’t use water that’s boiling or too hot.
  • Before applying, place the warm compress on the underside of your forearm to confirm that it’s not too hot.
  • Use a new cloth and fresh, clean water each time you make a compress.
  • Don’t leave the cloth on your eyes more than 10 minutes at a time.

How often can you use warm compresses for dry eye?

It’s safe to use a warm compress to treat dry eye multiple times per day to relieve your symptoms. There’s no specific limit that people recommend.

But using a warm compress too frequently can dry out the skin around the eyes or cause irritation. Using a warm compress as needed two to three times per day is usually enough to relieve symptoms.

Here are other home remedies for dry eye that you can try:

  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to dry indoor air.
  • Take a break from looking at screens at least once every hour.
  • Try to avoid smoking or reduce exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Stay inside when it’s windy or the air is dry outside.
  • Rinse your eyes with warm water and baby shampoo or mild soap.
  • Use eye drops for dry eyes just as an eye doctor or eye specialist recommends.
  • Use over-the-counter eyelid wipes to remove crusts and some bacteria that can cause blepharitis (eyelid inflammation).
  • Take omega-3 supplements or eat foods rich in omega-3 to reduce swelling, such as flaxseed, fish, or walnuts.

Contact a doctor if warm compresses do not help you relieve dry eyes or if you notice any of the following:

  • symptoms getting worse or not improving
  • persistent burning or stinging even when using home remedies
  • blurry vision even if you wear glasses
  • eyes feeling dry even after using eye drops
  • severe eye dryness that interferes with daily activities
  • headaches or migraine episodes that happen along with dry eyes

Warm compresses can relieve discomfort that happens with dry eyes. They’re easy to make, and you can use them multiple times a day for relief.

Contact a doctor if warm compresses or other home remedies do not help you relieve dry eyes — or if you notice other symptoms along with persistent dry eyes.


How do you use a warm compress for your eyes? ›

To make a warm compress, heat a wet towel in the microwave until it's warm, or dip it in hot water and wring it out. Apply the warm, not hot, towel to your eyelid for 5 to 10 minutes. Styes and chalazia usually begin to shrink after only a few days of treatment with warm compresses.

How do you make a warm compress that stays warm? ›

Research has shown that the most effective way to maintain heat in a basic warm compress is to use the 'bundle method'. This is where a patient heats five microfiber towels, wrapped around each other, for one minute and fifty seconds in a microwave.

How long should you keep a warm compress on your eye? ›

Put a warm, moist compress on your eye for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 6 times a day. Heat often brings a stye to a point where it drains on its own. Keep in mind that warm compresses will often increase swelling a little at first.

How many times a day should you use a warm compress for your eyes? ›

Reheat the cloth and reapply it to your closed eyelids for another 20-30 seconds. Repeat 10-15 times two to three times per day. This will soften and loosen scales and debris in the lashes and it helps liquefy the oily secretions from the oil glands in your eyelids.

How do you make a dry warm compress? ›

You can just as easily make a dry warm compress using materials you have at home.
How to make a dry warm compress
  1. Fill the foot part of the sock with uncooked rice.
  2. Tie off the top of the sock.
  3. Place the sock full of rice in the microwave for 30 seconds. ...
  4. Apply the sock to the painful area for up to 20 minutes at a time.

How do you treat dry eyes with hot compresses? ›

Ring out the washcloth so that it's damp, and fold it lengthwise to the size of your eye area. Place the warm, damp cloth over closed eyelids and rest if there until it is no longer warm (about 5 minutes). Remove the washcloth and place it in the bowl with warm water to reheat it.

Can you warm compress too much? ›

Compresses should be applied as directed by your physician — not too long and not too hot. Overuse of compresses, too hot or too long, can cause irritation. Compresses that are too hot can cause scalding or burning.

How often should you do warm compresses for dry eye? ›

There's no specific limit that people recommend. But using a warm compress too frequently can dry out the skin around the eyes or cause irritation. Using a warm compress as needed two to three times per day is usually enough to relieve symptoms.

How many minutes is hot compress? ›

How long and how often? Hot compresses should be applied for about 10 minutes, four to six times a day to begin with. After a few day, just one treatment is usually enough.

Should you use eye drops after warm compress? ›

Warm compresses may be recommended for daily or nightly use to help soothe dry eye symptoms— and may be used in combination with artificial tears eye drops, gel, or ointment for optimal results.

Why are eyes blurry after warm compress? ›

Is that normal? Yes, this shows that the compress is working. This is caused from the oils released from the meibomian glands. Your vision should clear within a few minutes.

What is the best eye compress for dry eyes? ›

However, it's more effective for dry eye to use a warm compress that is moist as well. That's why a heated washcloth or one dipped in warm water is the best warm compress for soothing dry eye.

What is the best thing to use for a warm compress? ›

Use a washcloth, small towel, or gauze as your compress. You can place the compress under running water or place it in a bowl with warm water.

How do you hydrate your eyes? ›

Tips to Keep Your Eyes Hydrated
  1. Use artificial tears throughout the day if you are prone to dry eyes. ...
  2. Remember to blink when you use your computer, read, or play video games. ...
  3. Use a humidifier in your home during the fall and winter to keep the air moist.
  4. Stay away from cigarette smoke, which tends to dry out your eyes.

How can I express my meibomian glands at home? ›

The triad of heating, cleaning and massaging will help the oily glands to function better. You can heat the glands with, for instance, a warm compress using warm tap water and makeup removal pads. You place them over your closed eyelids for two to three minutes and then repeat two more times.

How hot should a warm compress be? ›

Thermal therapy may relieve pain for certain musculoskeletal conditions and may help in wound healing. If heat therapy is used, the device must be kept at a temperature below 140°F and must be used for no longer than 15 to 20 minutes.

How do you make a warm compress for your eyes with rice? ›

The best treatment for a chalazion is warm compresses. This can be done by taking a clean small sock and filling it with rice. Tie a knot in the sock to form a small sack that can easily conform to the eye. Put the sock in a microwave to heat it for around 30 seconds or so.

What vitamin deficiency causes dry eye? ›

Vitamin A deficiency, which usually occurs in developing countries, can cause an increase in dry eye. By adding foods rich in Vitamin A, like carrots, pumpkins, apricots, spinach, tomatoes, dairy products and liver, you can prevent the development of this condition. Vitamin B2 protects your eyes from cell damage.

What vitamin deficiency causes dry eyes? ›

Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can cause dry eye symptoms. A study found that patients with dry eye disease had significantly lower vitamin D levels. In a study, Vitamin D supplements helped with immune function by reducing eye inflammation, promoting tear secretion, and improving tear quality.

How can I moisten dry eyes naturally? ›

Home Remedies For Dry Eye
  1. Eyelid Wash. One way to produce higher quality tears is to keep your eyelids clean. ...
  2. Warm Compress. A warm compress increases circulation to the eye area and stimulates tear production. ...
  3. Add Omega-3 to Your Diet. ...
  4. Coconut Oil. ...
  5. Increase Caffeine Intake. ...
  6. Change Your Environment. ...
  7. Wear Sunglasses. ...
  8. Blink More.
Apr 5, 2020

Can warm compresses damage eyes? ›

Compresses that became too hot may cause thermal injury to the surface of the eye or surrounding area. Similarly, cool compresses may be beneficial to cooling and hydrating the eye, but any extreme temperatures may cause damage to the eye or delicate surrounding area.

How do you massage dry eyes? ›

With clean hands, massage along the length of the eyelids towards the ear (massage upper lid down and the lower lid up) with the eyes closed using comfortable pressure. Massage for 30 seconds and repeat 5–10 times after warming the eyelids. This helps to push the oil out of the glands.

When should you not use a warm compress? ›

Heat. Brings more blood to the area where it is applied. Reduces joint stiffness and muscle spasm, which makes it useful when muscles are tight. Should NOT be used for the first 48 hours after an injury.

How long does dry eyes take to heal? ›

How long does dry eye last? Dry eye can be temporary and last for a few hours to months, or it may be permanent. Temporary dry eye typically has an acute cause, such as exposure to allergens or staring at a screen for too long. Chronic dry eye occurs when the condition and symptoms last for days, weeks, or months.

How to make a hot compress at home? ›

Towel compress instructions

Wet both towels with water. Squeeze out the excess water until they're just damp. Put one towel in the ziplock bag, being sure to leave the bag open. Place the bag in the microwave and heat on high for 2 minutes.

Should you wipe eyes after eye drops? ›

6 Steps for Applying Eye Drops

Afterward, dry them thoroughly with a clean towel. If your eyes are producing a discharge or have a crust, clean your eyes gently with wet cotton balls. Your optometrist may also recommend lid hygiene wipes. Wipe your eyes from the inner part (nose side) going outward.

Should I close my eyes after eye ointment? ›

Insert eye ointment (if prescribed) as follows: For older children and adults, pull the lower eyelid down with one or two fingers to create a pouch. Put the ointment in the pouch. Close the eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the ointment absorb.

Is heat or cold better for dry eyes? ›

Warm Compresses For Temporary Dry Eye Relief

Warm eye compresses can soothe the eyes and provide almost instant relief. The moisture of the compress hydrates the eyes, which helps to reduce the grittiness, and the warmth relaxes the eye to relieve any pain or muscle spasms that may accompany dry eye.

Does heat make dry eyes worse? ›

While Dry Eye Syndrome is commonly associated with the cold, winter months, Dry Eyes have a tendency to be even worse during the hot summer months, particularly in and around the mid-west.

Should eye compress be hot or cold? ›

Use a Cold Compress for Eye Swelling and Redness

Swelling in the eye area due to an infection, black eye or another type of injury can also be reduced by applying a cold compress, as cold temperatures numb pain and minimize swelling. Cold temperatures can also help minimize puffiness in the eyelids.

Can you use a paper towel for a warm compress? ›

1. Warm compresses - take a clean washcloth, dishtowel, hand towel, or thick stack of paper towels and soak them in warm (but not boiling) water.

Is a heating pad the same as a warm compress? ›

A warm compress can be purchased or made at home with items on hand. They include: Electric heating pad. Washcloth soaked in hot water and excess water wrung out.

What is the latest treatment for dry eyes? ›

Approved by the FDA in 2021, OptiLight aims to improve symptoms of dry eye caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. Approval was based on the results of a double-blind, randomized controlled trial. Two other devices, Lipiflow and iLux, use heat and pressure to massage your eyelids and help unclog oils.

How do you hydrate your eyes overnight? ›

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

"Vaseline works well. Apply it at night right after you wash your face, when your skin is still damp, so that the ingredients really absorb." It may feel thick and heavy, but that's the point: Skin-softening petrolatum locks in moisture, and by morning, it will be fully absorbed.

How can I hydrate my eyes overnight? ›

There are some simple things you can do to help prevent nighttime dry eye.
  1. Use a humidifier. Adding moisture to the air in your bedroom may help with nighttime dry eye, especially if your air is very dry.
  2. Reduce the impact of screens. ...
  3. Change your eyewear. ...
  4. Wash bedding regularly. ...
  5. Stay hydrated.
Jan 15, 2021

How do you unclog a meibomian gland? ›

Warm Compresses

A warm compress can help soothe dry eye symptoms and open the meibomian glands to improve oil flow. The heat can relax the eye, add moisture, and slow tear evaporation. You can easily make a warm compress at home. You just need a clean cloth and clean, warm water.

What is the best eye drop for meibomian gland dysfunction? ›

LipiFlow is the “gold standard” for treating meibomian gland dysfunction, blepharitis, ocular rosacea and dry eye.

What tool do you use to squeeze meibomian glands? ›

Expressing meibomian glands can be done with a paddle, rolling forceps, other forceps, or sterile cotton swabs. Gentle pressure is applied to the lids so that meibum flows out of the opening of the glands.

Should warm eye compress be wet or dry? ›

Warm compresses can be both moist and dry, but for dry eyes, most eye doctors recommend using a moist compress to both clean and hydrate your eyes at the same time. Your eye doctor can instruct you how to make your own moist warm compress at home. Making a warm compress to relieve dry eyes is quick and easy.

What counts as a warm compress? ›

A warm compress is a method of applying heat to the body. Heating sources can include warm water, microwaveable pads, wheat packs and electrical or chemical pads. Some unorthodox methods can include warmed potatoes, uncooked rice, and hard-boiled eggs. The most common warm compress is a warm, wet washcloth.

Do warm compresses help eye inflammation? ›

Warm compresses have been a popular home remedy for many reasons. For the eye, they can improve circulation, soothe inflammation, and unclog swollen eyelids.

Can a warm compress be too hot? ›

Are they safe? If people use a warm compress, they need to be careful that it does not become too hot. Compresses that became too hot may cause thermal injury to the surface of the eye or surrounding area.

Why are my eyes red after warm compress? ›

Heat causes the blood vessels in the skin around your eyes to dilate. This means more blood gets to the area. The body's inflammation response means that the blood carries more inflammatory cells to the area, resulting in even more of the redness, swelling and pain we associate with blepharitis.

Can warm compress make dry eyes worse? ›

Recent evidence suggests that warm compresses applied to eye lids with obstructed meibomian glands can exacerbate the condition. Compresses should be applied as directed by your physician — not too long and not too hot. Overuse of compresses, too hot or too long, can cause irritation.

Can warm compresses affect vision? ›

Conclusions: : Although warm moist compress therapy applied to the skin of the closed eyelids did not alter autorefraction values, this study indicates that warm compress application can temporarily alter visual acuity, SIVC, LLT, and CT.


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