Light radiates from a heated eye mask, framed by two hands.

Getting Serious About Warm Compresses and Eye Heating Masks

Last updated: October 2022

I’ll just be honest, I’ve never liked warm compresses very much.

They’re not anything new to me. When I made my first visit to my optometrist years ago complaining of dry eyes in winter, it was one of the first things he suggested. My eyes also had a tendency to develop swollen red bumps on my lid margins – styes, or chalazions?

So I tried them since they were supposed to help clear the painful swollen spots on my eyelids and improve my dry eyes. It never seemed to produce much results. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right?

My eyes were getting worse

Fast forward to the present: I’m having my first meibography at my very first dry eye specialist appointment. I hadn’t really thought much about those little oil glands on my eyelids; I just knew that my eyes were dry and getting worse. When they told me my meibomian glands were “moderate to severe,” that was the first gut punch of a really depressing appointment.

I left with a sheet of paper with “warm compress 2x/day” checked off and felt motivated to do something about this. Taking action always makes me feel better.

Searching for a new heating mask

It took a little digging, but I found the cheap microwavable mask I’d bought and given up on before. Then I remembered why I didn’t like it. It seems like there’s always a struggle to strike the perfect zone of temperature between “ouch, hot hot hot!” and “feels like a used washrag.” There’s maybe 2 minutes in there where it’s just perfect. But maybe that’s enough, I thought to myself.

Two months later it suddenly stopped working. It would heat up but wouldn’t expand, so the warm part of the mask never touched my eyes unless I pressed on it. I got on Amazon and started shopping, but the variety of mask options felt overwhelming.

Eventually I settled on a plug-in mask, as that sounded like a good idea for consistent heat. But when it finally arrived I found that it barely got warm, and like my old mask, it didn’t touch my eyelids. That one went back to Amazon. (Amanda recently had more luck with a plug-in USB mask).

Trying out the Bruder mask

I kept researching, and the mentions for the Bruder mask came up everywhere. All these optometrists and ophthalmologists might be on to something, right? When the package finally arrived, I had to try it out immediately.

The first thing I can say about the Bruder mask is it felt really good. The way it’s designed with the shape of the fabric and silica gel beads inside just fits perfectly, getting the heat right on those oil glands where you need it.

After using it I noticed my vision blurred quite a bit, but this is probably a sign the oils are coming out. So that’s a good thing. The other thing I learned while researching masks is, I probably should be gently massaging (or “expressing”) my eyelids after each 15-minute session with the mask. The key, of course, being gentle with it and with freshly-washed hands.

Making progress

I felt like after doing this I was making real progress for the first time. I even had a few oil glands that seemed to come unclogged in the process.

One of the other challenges of warm compresses for me is time. When do I have the time to be blind for 15 minutes twice a day? One of the reasons my eyes are so important to me is, unlike my 4 other senses, I use them from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. So I’ve had to adapt.

I didn’t like it at first, but eventually I realized I could be doing hamstring stretches and yoga while doing my warm compress. I don’t need my eyes for that, and I can listen to music if it’s just too boring.

Settling into a routine

At this point I’ve settled into a comfortable routine. The warm compresses are just a part of my day, and I think I could keep doing this longterm if it saves my meibomian glands. It’s possible I will need more advanced office treatments as well, but having something I can do at home every day to improve my dry eye disease is positive and empowering.

What about you? Have you found a mask that really works for you?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The ChronicDryEye.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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