Two of the most common therapies used to treat dry eye problems are hot compresses and eye lid massage. Let me explain both procedures, why they can be helpful and how to properly do each procedure.
There are approximately 40-50 meibomian glands in the upper eye lid and the lower eye lid of each eyelid. The meibomian glands produce the oil layer of the tear film and help prevent premature evaporation of the water layer of the tear film. If your meibomian glands are not functioning or are functioning poorly your eyes may feel irritated upon wakening in the morning.
The meibomian glands should produce a clear, thin oil that looks a lot like vegetable oil. If meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is present, either the glands don’t produce at all, they produce but the fluid produced is cloudy, or the oil from the meibomian glands has turned to a waxy almost toothpaste consistency.
With MGD, often times, the eyelids will be tender to pressure. When we examine a patient’s eyes for MGD we put pressure on the lid. If the patient experiences pain, it is almost certain they have MGD. We also look to see what kind of fluid, if any, is expressed from the glands. If the fluid is thick and waxy, hot compresses and lid massage will benefit that patient.
To do hot compresses, first make or purchase a rice pack. If you want to make your own, a simple way to do so is to take a tube sock, put enough hard rice into the toe of the sock to loosely fill the bottom 6 inches, cut off the excess and sew up the end. If you don’t want to mess with that, we do have rice packs for sale at Jensen Eye Care.
Once that is done, put the rice pack into the microwave oven for one minute. Then take a clean wash cloth, fold it so that it covers the eyes but not the whole face. Wet the wash cloth under your tap, wring out excess water and heat the washcloth in the microwave for about 30 seconds. (Be careful, not all microwaves are the same. You may find that 30 seconds is either too much time or too little time with your microwave. You want the washcloth to be quite warm, but not so hot that it will burn you.)
Place the heated washcloth over your eyes first, put the heated rice pack over the washcloth and then lay back and relax for 5 to 10 minutes. Let the moist heat soften the plugged meibomian glands.
Immediately after you remove the washcloth and heated rice, with your eyes still closed, gently press on your eye lid margins with one finger. You should feel like your finger is halfway on the upper lid and halfway on the lower lid. Alternately put a little more pressure on the upper lid and then the lower lid as your move your finger across your eye lids. Then do the other eye.
Do the lid presses once to twice a day for the next 2-4 weeks and then continue one or two times a week as needed. You should notice that your eyes feel more moist and less irritated within the first week.
Good luck with the hot compresses. It does take some time and you are busy, but you should notice an improvement fairly quickly.
Call us at 265-7008 if you are uncertain how to go about this procedure. We will be happy to walk you through it. Have a great day!