Dry Eye Institute

Stop wasting your time with hot compresses

Using warm compress to relieve dry eye has been a long term method in the artillery of fighting both dry eye signs and symptoms.

When the fat glands become compromised, whether due poor blinking, rosacea, or trauma we need to find a way to get them working again. Firstly targeting the underlying cause is the priority. But how do we keep the glands flowing?

Using a heat source over the top of closed eyes has been handed down from generation to generation to relieve dry eye symptoms and signs. But are all warm compresses equally efficient?  

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. The patient then uses the outer towel initially and replaces with the next outer layer after two minutes of heat application. While this is the most effective way to maintain heat with a typical cloth-based approach, as you can imagine, it is time consuming.

 A study performed in 2015 by Murakami et al revealed that the Bundle method, although the most labor intensive, increased lid temperatures above therapeutic levels. With regards to warm compresses, research has shown a temperature of 40–45 degrees Celsius to be safe and most effective when used for periods of four to six minutes.

I suggest that patients with mild dry eye purchase a Bruder or DERM mask and use it for five to 10 minutes, 1-2 times  day as part of their routine. Caution with eyelid massages and vigorous lid massage is advised – especially when combined with heat – this is because of the potential for corneal deformity and subsequent visual dysfunction. The tranquileye option is a more advanced, controlled option and is great for two reasons; it maintains heat for 20-25 minutes and also has the option of not requiring a microwave. Thermal instant snap to heat bags can be used in place of a microwave and reset in boiling water, hence perfect for individuals that travel.

Selecting the right warm compress for your level of dry eye can be advised by a specialist and is a regime that can be easily added to your day.

1) All Warm Compresses Are Not Equally Efficacious. Murakami DK1, Blackie CA, Korb DR.Optom Vis Sci. 2015 Sep;92(9):e327-33

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