Suffering from constant dry eyes? A compress is easy to make and can help relieve symptoms. But should it be warm or cold?

You can make a warm compress as a reliable dry eyes remedy. A cold compress can also help with dry eyes resulting from inflammation.

Read on about the differences between a cold compress and a warm one and when it’s best to use each.

When to Use a Warm Compress?

A warm compress can soothe dry eye symptoms and hydrate your eyes. It’s an effective home remedy for mild to moderate dry eyes. You can use it as a complementary treatment alongside eye supplements and any medication prescribed by your eye doctor.

If you often complain that “my eyes are always tired,” a warm compress can help. The benefits of a warm compress on the eyes extend to eye fatigue too.

You can use a warm compress to soothe eye fatigue after working or studying. It can relieve pain or discomfort in the eye and relax the eye muscles.

The heat from the warm compress improves the function of the meibomian glands found in the eyelids. It works by increasing the temperature of the inner eyelid.

The meibomian glands secrete the meibum, the oily component of the tear film. When these glands don’t work properly, dry eye syndrome soon follows.

closeup of male eye

A warm compress will increase the flow of the meibum into the eyes. It can also stabilize the tear firm and reduce the rate at which the tear film evaporates. It will help your eyes expel bacteria and debris more easily.

Research indicates that a warm compress is most effective at stimulating the meibomian glands when it has a temperature around 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius).

What Eye Conditions Can a Warm Compress Treat?

In addition to dry eyes and tired eyes, a warm compress is good for conjunctivitis (pink eye), blepharitis (swollen eyelid), and stye. It can also soothe muscle spasms.

How to Make a Warm Compress for Eyes

You can make a warm, moist compress by soaking a small towel or washcloth in a basin with hot water and wringing out the excess water.

Or you can heat a zip-lock bag with a wet towel in it in a microwave for two minutes on high, seal the bag, and wrap a second wet towel around it.

Either way, you want to hold the warm compress over your eyes for at least 5 minutes and preferably 10 minutes.

Important: When both your eyes are affected, use a separate washcloth and water bowl for each eye. It will prevent a possible infection from spreading between the eyes.

We’ve written a guide on how to make a warm compress for dry eyes including soothing compresses with herbs. You may want to check it out.

How Often Should You Use a Warm Compress for Dry Eyes?

You can apply a warm compress daily or nightly to relieve dry eye symptoms and support the health of your eyes. Do it every day to see the benefits.

Keep in mind that a compress, whether warm or cold, won’t cure very dry eyes. It’s not a standalone treatment for chronic dry eye. If you have constant dry eyes and severe symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor.

When to Use a Cold Compress?

A cold compress can relieve inflammation, making it ideal for inflammatory conditions like conjunctivitis and scleritis. It can relieve burning and painful sensations in the eye. It can also soothe eye strain.

portrait of a woman with eyes closed and gentle smile against palm tree background

Cold compresses can help counter inflammation resulting from meibomian gland disease. Inflammation in other parts of the eye, such as the cornea or conjunctiva, may also disrupt normal tear production, causing dry eye disease.

When the cause of dry eyes is inflammation in the tear glands or other parts of the eye, a cold compress can be an effective treatment.

You can also use a cold compress if your dry eyes are the result of an allergy or come with itching.

What Eye Conditions Can a Cold Compress Treat?

A cold compress can help treat inflammatory eye conditions such as scleritis, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and dry eyes caused by inflammation. It can treat eye pain from allergies, contact lens irritation, or injuries.

It can also reduce dark circles and eye bags under the eyes. And you can use a cold compress for swelling, whether it’s caused by an eye disease or an injury.

How to Make a Cold Compress for Dry Eyes

Soak a clean cloth or towel in cold water. Wring out from it excess water, fold it, and place it over your eyes.

Or you can cool a compress by placing it in a plastic bag and then putting the cold compress bag in the freezer for 15 minutes. Remove the frozen cloth from the bag and apply it gently over your closed eyes for up to 15 minutes.

Important: Always test an eye compress on your arm before applying it to your eyes. Never apply a frozen cold compress for longer than 20 minutes to reduce the risk of frostbite.

How Often Should You Use a Cold Compress for Dry Eyes?

Use a cold compress three times a day or every couple of hours. A 2013 study found that a cold compress applied three times a day for 30 seconds for one month can be an alternative dry eye disease treatment to artificial tears applied three times a day over the same period.

The Wrap Up

Both cold and warm compresses can soothe dry and tired eyes. You can count on both as a dry eyes remedy. That said, a cold compress works best for relieving inflammation.

A warm compress, meanwhile, improves tear gland function and promotes the production of the oily component of tears.

Are your eyes feeling heavy and tired? Are they itchy and red and sensitive to light, too? You may have dry eye disease, a condition that affects millions of Americans every year.

A simple and easy online test can help you find out whether you may have the condition. It’s the first step to getting effective dry eye syndrome treatment.

Take the Dry Eye Test

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