Dry and burning eyes, especially as the day goes on, is one of the toughest eye conditions to manage. Often patients have a problem with their meibomian glands – special glands along your lid margins that produce a lubricating oil which helps prevent evaporation of tears right off of your cornea.
The oils in the glands become hard, close to a consistency of butter rather than olive oil, and clog the glands, thus stopping your tears from getting this all important oil layer.
In order to soften the oils, you need to use heat on the glands. This is the single most important step to alleviating the symptoms and returning your eyes to their optimal function. This is also the least performed management tip in all of eyecare.
When I mention warm compresses or hot soaks most patients at least pretend to hear me, and some even try it once or twice. But most people think putting a hot towel on their eyes for 5 minutes is very inconvenient.
Warm water on a washcloth is also very inefficient – the washcloth only stays warms for 20 seconds before you have to put it back under the water. So I usually go over a few other methods of warm compresses that I think are easier and more convenient.
The best method, however, comes from a website called The Dry Eye Zone:
CINDY’S RICE BAGGY RECIPE
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.
Other methods that work pretty well are buying a microwavable gel pack straight from the drug store, or even a hard-boiled egg, which retains heat for a long time.
Whatever method you choose, warm compresses are the single most important step you can do to help relieve dry, burning eyes. Of course, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your Optometrist first to make sure you know your exact diagnosis and complete treatment options.