Warm Compresses For Dry Eye

If you are experiencing dry eye, our eye doctors recommend using warm compresses morning and night. 

Warm Compresses For Dry Eye in Olympia

American Family Vision Clinic

Warm Compresses For Dry Eye

Hot or warm compresses are a simple, effective, and easy to use home care method for alleviating symptoms of dry eye, particularly for those with MGD-caused dry eye. As with any at-home treatment, however, it is advised to consult with our eye care professional before use.

When to use Hot Compresses

  • Purpose: Compresses serve to alleviate symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
  • Effectiveness: Research indicates that 45-86% of individuals with dry eye syndrome have meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), and hot compresses have proven notably efficient in unclogging these glands.
  • Consultation: It is crucial to consult our eye doctor before initiating any at-home treatment. This ensures understanding of your specific dry eye condition and confirms that your chosen course of action is suitable.
  • Our Optometrist's Recommendation: Typically, our optometrists advise the application of warm compresses alongside in-office treatments. The latter involve more controlled heating and manual expression of your meibomian glands.
  • Combined Benefits: The combination of in-office treatments and at-home use of warm compresses can yield transformative results for numerous dry eye sufferers.

Dry eye syndrome can cause a range of symptoms, including:

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please call us at (360) 491-2121 to schedule a dry eye evaluation.

When to use Hot Compresses
How Can Warm Compresses Help Relieve Dry Eye Symptoms?

How Can Warm Compresses Help Relieve Dry Eye Symptoms?

Warm compresses are soothing for the eyes, and can quickly provide relief. The moisture hydrates the eyes, reducing grittiness, and the warmth from the compress relaxes the eye, relieving pain and muscle spasms which can be caused by dry eye. Additionally, the compresses can loosen clogged oil in your tear glands, which results in better quality tears, which in turn will reduce dry eye symptoms.

How Can Warm Compresses Help Relieve Dry Eye Symptoms?

Not a Substitute for In-Office Care

At home warm compresses are not a replacement for in office heating and expression of the meibomian glands. Warm compresses are a great additional tool in between treatments in the office. There are three main reasons why at home warm compresses are not as effective.  

  1. Compliance: Patients don’t always follow the protocols set by our eye doctor with regards to warm compresses. Ideally a patient should be using their compress twice a day.
  2. Temperature: Warm compresses do not retain their heat like in office treatments. The lower heat means the clogged meibomian glands are not unclogged as successfully.
  3. Manual Expression: During an in office treatment the meibomian glands are heated at a consistent temperature, following which our eye care professional will manually express out the clogged glands. During an at-home treatment such as warm compresses the patient’s glands are not expressed, although some meibum may express on its own.

In Office Heating & Expression of Meibomian Glands

Some of these in-office treatment options include Systane iLux, Tearcare, Lipiflow, Ocusoft One Touch and Mibo Thermoflo, each of which utilises specially designed devices to precisely apply heat directly to the affected areas. These treatments are typically quick, and provide long-lasting relief.

At our office American Family Vision Clinic we provide treatments using the Ocusoft One Touch. This is a non-invasive, pain free treatment that is administered by a technician and our optometrist. The patient wears the One Touch for 10-20 minutes, following which our optometrist will manually express the meibomian glands, freeing them up from clogged oil. Treatment will take place over 2-4 sessions as determined by our eye doctor, following which the patient will be sent home with a warm compress, eyelid wipes, omega 3 vitamins, and eye drops that are lipid based.

When to use Hot Compresses
How Can Warm Compresses Help Relieve Dry Eye Symptoms?

Recommendations for at-Home Use of Compresses

While warm compresses can be effective for treating your dry eye at home, there is more to it than simply soaking a washcloth in warm water. Using a compress like that for a few minutes is generally not so effective since it cannot sustain the warm enough temperature for long, while another common household item, rice bags, emit a dry heat when warmed that is less helpful for clogged meibomian glands. People who try these types of compresses are often disappointed with the results, and from that deem the entire concept ineffective.

Compress packs specifically designed for at-home use for dry eye, such as the Bruder warm compress, tends to be more effective while still being simple to prepare and apply. However as noted above, even specially designed warm compresses do not sustain the optimal heat like in office treatments. 

Common Questions

Yes, warm compresses indeed help with dry eyes. The primary reason behind dry eye syndrome is often the imbalance or blockage in the meibomian glands, which produce the oil layer of your tears. Warm compresses can help these glands function properly. They stimulate the glands to secrete oil that has become stagnant, aiding in tear stability and keeping your eyes lubricated. Regular use of warm compresses can relieve the symptoms of dry eyes, enhancing overall eye health and comfort. Always ensure to consult our optometrist at American Family Vision Clinic for the best advice and practices.
There are numerous warm compress products on the market, and the best one often depends on personal preference. However, a popular and effective choice is the Bruder Moist Heat Eye Compress. This product maintains moisture and heat effectively, providing the necessary therapeutic treatment for dry eyes. It’s easy to use, requiring only a quick heating in the microwave. Always remember to call our practice at (360) 491-2121 to get personalized advice from an eye doctor on choosing a suitable compress.
Warm water acts as a natural remedy for dry eyes by stimulating the secretion of oils from the meibomian glands. These glands can sometimes be clogged, leading to a deficiency in tear production. Applying a warm compress soaked in warm water to closed eyelids can help loosen the oils, improving the quality of your tears and alleviating dry eye symptoms. It’s a simple yet beneficial approach that can be complemented with professional help from an optometrist.
The best home remedy for dry eyes often depends on the root cause. However, a universally beneficial method is maintaining good eye hygiene. This includes regular use of warm compresses and eyelid massages to stimulate tear production. Increasing your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in foods like fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, can also aid in managing dry eye symptoms. Hydration is critical as well, so drinking enough water daily is essential. Remember, consultation with an eye doctor at American Family Vision Clinic can provide more personalized remedies.
Heat, when used appropriately, is beneficial for dry eyes. It assists in unblocking the meibomian glands, which leads to improved tear production and eye lubrication. However, excess heat or inappropriate application can potentially harm your eyes. For instance, using a heat source that's too hot can lead to burns or irritation. Therefore, it's always recommended to use a safe, regulated heat source, such as a commercially available eye compress. When in doubt, contact our optometrist for professional advice and always follow their guidance on eye care.
Dr. Zurcher cartoon


Warm compresses have been found to be an effective at-home treatment for dry eye, if done correctly. The ideal use of warm compresses is when they are used in addition to in office treatment. Warm compresses alone are not as effective, especially long-term, as in-office treatment. If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms, contact us at American Family Vision Clinic to schedule an appointment. Patients with dry eyes visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of dry eye care for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.

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Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

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I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

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Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

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Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

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Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

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The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

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