You went in for your yearly eye exam and your eye doctor suggested you do warm compresses. Why are they suggesting this and what do you need to know to do them properly? First, let’s talk about why this is being suggested. Your tear film has a water layer and an oil layer. 86% of dry eye is because of an issue with the oil layer, specifically the glands of the eyelid called meibomian glands. The glands can be inflamed, clogged, or a combination of both. Warm compresses will help unclog the glands.
When the meibomian glands become clogged, the oil inside them thickens and becomes the consistency of toothpaste or a stick of butter. When these glands become infected, that creates what is known as a stye. That being said, by applying heat to the glands for a minimum of 10 minutes, 4 days a week, we are “melting the butter”. And so, return the oil back to liquid form.
How do you do Warm Compresses?
The first thing that comes to mind may be using a warm washcloth to heat the glands. This may seem like a good idea, but the washcloth loses heat almost instantly and has little effect on the contents of the glands. There are other homemade options such as filling a sock with rice or even using a warm hard-boiled egg to heat the glands. Honestly though, I do not know of any patient that has actually done the egg thing. In our office we have: a microwaveable D.E.R.M. mask, a Tranquileyes XL mask (provides up to 20 minutes of sustained heat), or one of the newest masks to hit the market, the Tear Restore Mask. The unique thing about the Tear Restore mask is that you can see out of it. This lets you watch TV or play on your phone and invariably increases compliance and the odds of success.
3 Keys to Success
Once you find a mask that works for you, remember these 3 things to successfully unclog the glands:
1. Consistency is the key. Unless you are doing it for 10 minutes at least 4 days a week, you are unlikely to have long term success.
2. Sustained heat is absolutely crucial. If you do warm compresses seven days a week, but it is not hot enough to melt the meibum, you are wasting your time.
3. You have to target the meibomian glands on the eyelids. If you have deep set eyes, or choose a mask that does not hit the eyelid margins, you will not be able to “melt that butter”!
Get Expert Help
So, there you have it. For masks, or a more in depth explanation, feel free to schedule a dry eye evaluation (click here to schedule). We are happy to go over the pros and cons of each mask. Or, we can schedule in office therapy that will make at home warm compresses not necessary.