Benefits of warm and cold compresses for treating dry eye syndrome

Post In: Eye Discomfort
Benefits of warm and cold compresses for treating dry eye syndrome

Dry eyes are common problems, especially among older people. As we age, our bodies become less able to produce enough tears, which provide moisture and lubrication to the eyes and make them comfortable or functional. Tears also act as protection for the eyes from various infections.

If our eyes do not regularly produce tears, they become prone to and struggle with dryness. 

Aside from the natural aging process, a more common cause of eye dryness is overexposure to the computer screen. When we stare at a screen, we tend to blink less frequently — only about one-third as often as we normally do — and many of the blinks performed while working with a computer are only partial lid closures, according to studies. Tears coating the eye evaporate more rapidly during long non-blinking phases, and this can cause dry eyes.

Another cause of dry eye is antihistamine’s side effects or by other medical conditions that prevent the eyes from closing.

Dry eyes is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Your eyes may “run out” of tears for many reasons, especially if you are experiencing certain medical conditions, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency.

Dry eyes can feel annoying and may cause some discomfort. If you have dry eyes, your eyes                                                                                                                                                                                                               may sting or burn. You may experience dry eyes in various activities and situations, such as on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, while riding a bike or after looking at a computer screen for a few hours.

Dry eye symptoms

The most common symptoms of dry eye syndrome are:

  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Redness

Other common symptoms include:

  • Watery tearing
  • Stringy mucus
  • Eyes getting tired faster than normal
  • Difficulty reading or sitting at the computer for long periods
  • Blurry vision
  • The feeling of having sand in your eyes

Treatments for dry eyes may make you more comfortable. These treatments can include changing some routines in your lifestyle and using eye drops. You’ll likely need to take these measures indefinitely to control the symptoms of dry eyes.

Causes of dry eye syndrome

Tears have three layers.: the oily outer layer, the watery middle layer and the inner mucus layer. If the glands that produce the various elements of your tears are inflamed or don’t produce enough water, oil or mucus, it can lead to dry eye syndrome.

Your tears quickly evaporate when oil is missing from them, and thus your eyes can’t maintain a steady supply of moisture.

The causes of dry eye syndrome include:

  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Exposure to the wind or dry air, such as constant exposure to a heater during the winter
  • Allergies
  • LASIK eye surgery
  • Some medications, including antihistamines, nasal decongestants, birth control pills and antidepressants
  • Aging
  • Long-term contact lens wear
  • Staring at a computer for long hours
  • Not blinking enough

Warm compress or cold compress: which should I use?

People suffer from dry eyes in different ways and various degrees. For severe cases, it may require medical intervention. On the other hand, mild symptoms can be handled with some self-treatment options. Physicians recommend the application of compresses to alleviate the pain and discomfort due to dry eyes. There are two types of compresses: the warm compress and the cold compress. For people who want to know which is the better treatment, here is a guide to compare the two options:

Warm compress for dry eyes

Warm compress is best for people who struggle with dry eyes due to difficulty sleeping because of strained eyes. By increasing blood circulation and stimulating the oil glands, a warm compress allows the eyes to feel relaxed. It is also ideal for people who find that their tears evaporate too quickly. These people suffer from meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). 

Other people feel comfortable with the warm sensation from the compress. That’s because heat stimulates the oil glands within the eye and helps them to produce more oil. This makes it ideal for people who wake up with crusty, flaky or sticky eyes due to a problem with the lipid layer of the eyes. The warmth enables better blood circulation around the eyes, which effectively stimulates the glands and unclogs them.

For warm compresses, you can use a piece of cloth or a gel pack that is soaked in warm water. It is not recommended to warm the cloth directly using a microwave as it may burn the eyelids.

Cold compress for dry eyes

A cold compress also improves the circulation of blood around the eyes. It is an ideal option for people who struggle with reading because of dry eyes. The cold sensation helps relieve the burning or painful feeling caused by eye strain. It is also an excellent remedy for eye strains due to overexposure to screens, reducing the irritation and headaches that are caused by eye strains.

To make a cold compress for the eyes, you can use an ice bag or a packet of frozen peas. You can also use a reusable gel pack that has been frozen overnight. Be sure to put a towel between the ice pack and the eye to avoid burning the eyes due to direct contact with the cold temperature.  

As to the question of which type of compression is better for dry eyes, it appears that there is no exact answer. Warm and cold compresses are both effective remedies for alleviating the symptoms of dry eyes. People who suffer from dry eyes must choose the type of solution depending on their condition. However, experts also recommend using the two remedies hand-in-hand. It is best to start with a cold compress for about five minutes. If the pain or discomfort persists, try the warm compress right after. This may be done alternately until the symptoms become lighter or totally eliminated.

Got a question, or anything I can help with? My name is Steve Stretton, and I’m the owner and manager at You can drop me a line here. Good luck!

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