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Warm compresses

(also referred to as heat treatment, hot compresses, rice baggy treatment)


Warm compresses may be applied over the eyelids as a treatment for meibomian gland dysfunction. They work by loosening up hardened oil that clogs the oil glands in the eyelids. For many people with chronic meibomian gland dysfunction, heat treatment is an effective 'maintenance' treatment.


In the increasingly common condition known as meibomian gland dysfunction, the oil-producing glands in the eyelids fail to secrete enough oil to prevent tears from evaporating too quickly, and this results in dry eye symptoms. Heat treatment, using warm compresses, is intended to loosen up hardened oil that is clogging the glands and keep it flowing better. Even better, you can follow up a warm compress with lid scrubs/lid massage to express the now softened oil from icky clogged glands.

How can you do a warm compress?

  • Warm washcloth: This is the traditional method often recommended to patients and seems to work well for some people, but for others it does not retain heat long enough to be effective and has to be re-heated several times. Some people find frequent use of a wet washcloth around their eyes to be irritating to the skin.
  • Rice baggy: This is a favorite among dry eye treatment 'connoisseurs' and veterans of meibomian gland dysfunction. Rice baggies come in many shapes and forms - see Cindy's Rice Baggy Recipe (below) for instructions on an easy, practical home-made solution;or if you really want something ready-made you can purchase a Rice Baggy from The Dry Eye Shop. It's simply uncooked rice in a bag, heated in the microwave, carefully tested for temperature, and finally placed over the eyes for 5 to 20 minutes. We find that rice baggies work better than washclothes because the rice retains heat well and the weight helps it distribute the heat evenly and effectively. Rice baggies can be re-used many times but for safety's sake should be replaced periodically.
  • Thermoeyes: From the Tranquileyes company (EyeEco), and available as either self-activating or microwavable, Thermoeyes are small nearly round gel-type packets designed for use with the Tranquileyes goggle as either warm or cold compresses.
  • Others: Check your local drugstore for gel packs, clay packs, rice or flax packs that can be microwaved for use on the eyes.

Some doctors have other recommendations such as a boiled egg or baked potato.

CAUTION!!! Exercise great care when applying any heat to the lids, to prevent irritation or burning. Please consult your doctor for specific advice and instructions. Bear in mind that heat promotes inflammation, so do not overuse.


1. Buy a box of knee-hi stockings. I buy L'eggs Everday knee highs, 10 pair to a box for $5.99.

2. Buy a bag of long grain rice.

3. Put about 1/2 cup of uncooked rice in a single knee high and tie it off with a knot to keep the rice from falling out. Experiment a little with the amount of rice and tying the stocking off at different lengths until you find what works best and is the most comfortable (not too heavy) for you.

4. Put in the microwave on high for 20 seconds to start. Keep nuking until it's warm enough.

Easy, cheap and you get 20 rice baggies. Use one for as long as you want and then toss it out.

TIP: They work great cold from the freezer also if you're into cold compresses.


further reading


Lid therapy

Meibomian gland dysfunction

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