How does a warm compress help soothe different eye conditions?

Post In: Eye Discomfort
How does a warm compress help soothe different eye conditions?

What is a warm compress?

A warm compress involves soaking a clean cloth in warm water and applying it firmly on—or compressed on—the skin, wound or swelling. Heat and moisture is known to help alleviate pain, inflammation and other issues.

Warm compresses have been around for a long time and are a traditional home remedy that have been used in treating many mild ailments. Compresses are also recommended by doctors and medical professionals for managing certain conditions.

Warm compresses are also used in treating some eye conditions such as sties, itchiness, dryness, red eyes and infections.

How to use a warm compress on the eye

Using a warm compress for the eye is easy.

While keeping your eye closed, just apply a warm compress directly to your eyelids. If the cloth is large enough, you can also apply it to both eyes at once.

Hold it there for 10 minutes. You can also use warming eye masks that may achieve the same effects as the warm cloth compresses and in a more convenient way.

Also, remember to dip the compress in warm water instead of heating it in a microwave. Some patients have suffered facial burns by using a microwave to heat up the wet cloth.

After applying a warm compress for up to 10 minutes, cleanse your eyelids.Use a soft cloth to cleanse your eyelids and be careful not to scrub too vigorously. Otherwise, the compress would cause damage to the skin and eyes.

Benefits for using a Warm compress for eyes

Warm compresses are a popular home remedy for the eyes. The heat from the compress helps glands that produce tears to work better. They can improve circulation, soothe inflammation and unclog swollen eyelids.

Below are some ways how warm compresses can help with specific eye conditions:


A warm compress is a common approach to treating sties, also known as hordeola (hordeolum if singular) or chalazia (chalazion if singular). Sties occur when a localized part of the eyelid becomes swollen due to gland blockage or infection.

Warm compresses help soften and drain away any blockages.


Besides sties, eyelids can become inflamed or swollen for other reasons. Blepharitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the area around the base of the eyelashes. The underlying causes of chronic blepharitis are not well understood, but it is not caused by poor hygiene.

The most obvious signs of blepharitis are redness and stickiness of the eyelid, with clumping of scaly skin around the base of the eyelashes.

According to a 2012 review of multiple research studies published in the Cochrane Database System Review, compresses have shown to be helpful in relieving blepharitis symptoms as it helps to loosen the sebum, or the oily and slightly waxy substance found on the skin.

Swollen eyes

There are other conditions that would result in swollen eyes or eyelids. Some of the causes for swollen eye may include:

Rarer causes include Graves’ disease or eye cancer, which can also cause the condition.

With each of these conditions, applying a warm compress can provide some relief of symptoms. However, it is not proven to cure any of these conditions.

Dry eyes

You can also use warm compresses to help with dry eyes. The heat from the compress helps glands that produce tears to work better, thus bringing back moisture. It also helps loosen the scales and debris that can be found around the eye lashes.

Warm compresses are a common treatment for dry eye-related conditions, including meibomian gland dysfunction. Note that they can only provide relief and not cure dry eye conditions.

Pink eye

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a swelling of the inner conjunctiva of the eye. It is typically caused by bacteria, virus or an allergy. Using a warm compress may also be helpful with relieving pain, itchiness, discharge and inflammation. It also helps reduce the sticky buildup of discharge on the eyelids or crust that forms on your eyelashes. It will not, however, cure any infection.

If you have been diagnosed with an infection, you can consult with an eye specialist to see if they can recommend you with antibiotics or other infection-fighting medicines in addition to your warm compress.

Black eye

Black eye (also called periorbital hematoma) is caused by trauma to the eye. It is basically the bruising and subcutaneous (under the skin) bleeding of the eye causing pain, inflammation and discoloration on the area.

A warm compress may help with pain from a black eye. Warm compresses help increase blood flow to the area to facilitate healing. It is often recommended as a first-aid measure, specifically a few days after the major primary swelling has gone down.

Adding herbs to warm compresses

You can also add herbal tea or infusion on your warm compress before applying it to your eye, too. Herbs like garlic and echinacea have antibacterial properties. Aloe vera and chamomile also have anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. They could help reduce infection in pink eye, sties or other eye infections.

Simply use five drops of herbal extracts or tinctures on your warm compress before applying. Also, make sure that you fully strain out any herbal matter before applying the warm compress to your eyes. Keep your eyes closed and be aware that some herbs may irritate the skin.


Cleansing the eyelids

After applying a warm compress to the eyes, you need to cleanse your eyelids. To do this, gently rub the margin of the eyelid—at the base of the eyelashes, and where the glands are located—with a cotton swab soaked in a diluted solution of baby shampoo. Use two to three drops in about half a cup of warm water.

Always cleanse your eyelids and make it part of your self-care regime twice a day, every day. If you are experiencing blepharitis, this would be considered as a lifelong commitment. Otherwise, the symptoms will come back without proper care of your eyes.

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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