Warm Eye Compress: The Benefits for Symptom Relief

A warm eye compress or a heated eye mask can help relieve the irritation, dryness and pain caused by a number of eye conditions, including dry eye syndrome, conjunctivitis and blepharitis. Even if your eyes are simply tired and puffy from a late night out, a warm eye compress can help.

Warm Eye Compress

Keep reading to find out more on the conditions you can treat using a warm compress or heated eye mask, why a warm eye compress helps, tips on using one, times when a cold eye compress might be better at relieving symptoms, and when it’s best to see your doctor about an eye condition.

Conditions a Warm Compress Can Help Improve

There are a number of eye conditions that can benefit from using a warm eye compress or heated eye mask including blepharitis, dry eye syndrome, conjunctivitis and styes.

Blepharitis Treatment at Home

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids. There are three types – anterior blepharitis, posterior blepharitis, and mixed blepharitis. Anterior blepharitis affects the front edge of the eyelid, where the eyelashes attach. Posterior blepharitis affects the back of the eyelids and the meibomian glands – the glands in your eyelids that help you make tears. 

blepharitis treatment natural

Posterior blepharitis is also called meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). Mixed blepharitis is the most common. This is when you have both anterior and posterior blepharitis at the same time.

Anterior blepharitis is commonly caused by:

  • A reaction to the bacteria that normally live on the skin without causing any harm, but at times can cause the eyelids to become inflamed
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis – a condition that causes the skin to become oily or flaky, which can block the meibomian glands

Posterior blepharitis is caused by a problem with the meibomian glands. It occurs when the gland openings get clogged and as a result, less oil reaches the eye.
The exact cause of blepharitis is unknown, but some risk factors include being over the age of 50, having a hormone imbalance, taking certain medications, and allergies.

The main symptom is sore eyelids, but your eyes may feel gritty, itchy, or as if they are burning. Your eyelids may also look greasy and become sticky with discharge. You may even experience blurred vision.

Using warm compresses is a basic part of blepharitis treatment at home as it helps to unblock the glands and remove the debris from your eyelids. Research supports the use of warm eye compresses as an effective treatment option for blepharitis. Read about other natural blepharitis treatments and home remedies.

Dry Eye Disease/Syndrome Treatment

Dry eye occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears to keep them moist. Symptoms include a gritty feeling, itching, redness, blurry vision and sensitivity to light. You may also feel like there is something in your eye or you may have blurred vision.

benefits of warm compress on eyes

Posterior blepharitis is the most common cause of dry eye. Other causes include wearing contacts, taking certain medications, hormonal changes and ageing. By applying a warm compress you encourage the glands on your eyelids to produce more oils, relieving the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.

Conjunctivitis Treatment at Home

Also called pinkeye, conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva or the thin clear tissue that covers the white part of the eye. Conjunctivitis can be caused by an infection, allergies or irritant. It causes your eyes to be bloodshot, itchy, watery, burns or feel gritty.

hot eye compress

This condition usually affects both eyes. Depending on the type of conjunctivitis it may go away on its own or it may require an antibiotic ointment or eye drops. A hot eye compress or an eye mask can help alleviate the discomfort of conjunctivitis.

Treating a Stye with a Warm Compress

A stye is a small, painful lump on or inside the eyelid. The lump may be red, swollen and filled with pus. Your eye may also be red and watery. Styes generally clear up on their own within a week or two. The warmth of a warm compress or eye mask can help with the pain of a stye and increase blood flow to the area, aiding healing.

Other Eye Conditions

Warm eye compresses and heated eye masks aren’t only good for eye conditions. They also help:
  • Reduce redness due to tiredness or environmental irritants, such as smoke or dust
  • Diminish the appearance of dark circles, puffiness or wrinkles
  • Ease the pain of migraines or headaches
  • Relieve eye strain or fatigue from too much time looking at a computer screen

    In addition to medical and aesthetic benefits, lying down with a warm eye compress or a heated eye mask can be a lovely way to relax and unwind at the end of a long day.

    How a Warm Eye Compress or Mask Helps

    A warm eye compress or mask can help provide fast relief from the discomfort of an eye condition or tired eyes. Your eyes generally feel better as soon as you place the compress or mask over them. Thanks to the warmth of the compress or mask you can:

    Relieve Eye Pain

    Warmth is well known to reduce pain and promote healing, helping the body to restore itself.

    Relax Your Eyes

    The heat from a compress for eyes or an eye mask can help your eyes relax and ease any muscle spasms.

    Get Moisture to Your Eye

    A warm compress for dry eyes can relieve the feeling of grittiness by helping the eye to naturally re-hydrate.

    Release Blocked Oil Glands

    The glands in your eyelids make oil. Sometimes they can get clogged up. The heat from the compress stimulates the glands to produce more oil, unblocking them, making it a natural treatment for blepharitis. 

    Reduce Swelling in Eyes

    A warm compress is an effective and welcome relief for swollen eyes.

    How to Use a Warm Eye Compress

    Start by washing your hands with soap and water. Next, fill a bowl with warm water. It should be warm, but not too hot.  The skin of your eyelid and around your eyes is quite sensitive. Dunk a clean facecloth in the water until it’s soaked. Wring out the facecloth – it should be damp, but not dripping.

    Lie down and place the facecloth over your eyes. When the facecloth gets cold, rewarm it and place it back over your eyes. It takes at least 4 – 6 minutes for the heat to reach the glands, so it’s important to keep the heat as constant as possible to get the maximum benefit.

    warm eye compress

    After 10 minutes remove the compress and gently clean your eyelashes with a damp cotton pad, removing any debris. Use a new pad for each eye to avoid any cross-contamination from any infection. Repeat these 10-minute sessions as many times a day as you need to.

    How to Use a Heated Eye Mask

    A popular alternative to using a warm compress is a heated eye mask. These reusable masks are either warmed in the microwave or contain a gel pack that slides into the mask after warming it in hot water. The advantage of eye masks is that they retain heat longer than facecloths, which means you don’t have to re-heat them during a 10-minute session.

    Eye masks keep the warmth on your eyes constant, which makes them highly effective. Eye masks are also easier to keep in place as most have an elastic band to keep them secure over your eyes.

    heated eye mask

    As with compresses, you’ll want to keep a mask on for 10 minutes at a time and gently clean your eye with a damp cotton pad afterwards to remove any crusts, bacteria, dust or grime. You can also gently massage your eyelids. This will help to push the oils out of the glands.

    When to Use a Cold Eye Compress or Eye Mask

    While using a warm eye compress relieves many eye conditions, there are benefits from placing a cold compress on the eyes as well. Cold eye compresses or chilled eye masks are good at helping relieve eye strain and cooling the “heat” of irritated eyes.

    They are also very good at reducing redness and puffiness. Eye masks such as the SleepEase Blepharitis Eye Mask can be used either hot or cold, depending on which gives you the most relief. It’s often just a matter of trial and error until you find which works best at easing your symptoms.

    When to See a Doctor

    See a doctor immediately if you are experiencing:
    • Eye pain (more than irritation)
    • Loss of vision
    • An inability to move your eye muscle
    • Floaters in your vision
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Extreme redness in one or both eyes

    These can be signs of a more serious eye problem and need to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.

    You should also see your doctor if your eye condition doesn’t go away with home treatment over time or worsens.

    Warm Eye Compress Solution

    A warm compress for eyes is a great way to relieve the symptoms of a number of eye conditions, as well as irritation from allergens and fatigue from overuse. A heated eye mask is a great alternative to using warm compresses as it keeps a more constant heat on your eyes, giving the glands in your eyes time to unblock if they’ve become clogged.

    At times a cold eye compress or mask may give you greater relief – it’s really a matter of personal preference and experience. And remember, you don’t have to have an eye problem to enjoy the relaxing comfort of lying down with a warm (or cool) eye mask over your eyes while you take a break from a hectic day.