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Heat Treatment for Dry Eyes: IPL, Warm Compress, & More

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A young man sitting at a desk with his laptop and holding his glasses in his right hand as he rubs his eyes.

When experiencing dry eyes, the first thing patients want to do is relieve their symptoms. Thankfully, there are many ways to improve dry eye symptoms, and your eye doctor can help recommend an ideal treatment. 

Intense pulsed light therapy, warm compresses, TearCare, and LipiFlow are all heat treatments for dry eyes—warming the eyes to remove blockages in the meibomian glands and reduce inflammation. These treatments are beneficial, but how do they work, and which is best for your needs? 

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye is a common condition where your tears cannot effectively hydrate your eyes. When this happens, your eyes become dry and irritated. Many patients live with dry eyes that occur for various reasons. 

Besides dryness, this condition can lead to several symptoms, including: 

  • Gritty eyes
  • Redness
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Blurry vision
  • A stinging or burning sensation in the eyes

What Causes Dry Eye? 

There can be many factors related to why you have dry eyes, but the cause of this condition is an issue with your tear film. Your tear film has 3 layers (mucus, water, and oil) that help keep your eyes moist and protected, but issues can arise and lead to dry, irritated eyes. 

When you have problems with your tear film, you may experience decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation

Decreased Tear Production

Tear production can decrease because of aging, medications, certain medical conditions, or an injury to the eye. People who frequently use digital devices can experience dry eyes since they tend to blink less often when staring at a screen for long periods.

Increased Tear Evaporation

In some cases, dry eye occurs due to increased tear evaporation from poor eyelid function or environmental factors such as windy or dry climates. Medical conditions like blepharitis (eyelid inflammation) and meibomian gland dysfunction can also lead to increased tear evaporation and dry eye symptoms. When the meibomian glands surrounding the eyelids that produce oil for the tear film become blocked, it can lead to increased tear evaporation. 

Your eye doctor can determine the root cause of your symptoms during an eye exam and recommend a customized treatment plan that meets your needs. 

Heat Treatment Options for Dry Eyes

While there are many ways to treat dry eyes, your optometrist will likely recommend heat treatments if your dry eyes occur due to meibomian gland issues. These treatments involve applying controlled heat to your eyelids to help alleviate dry eye symptoms and promote better eye health. 

Your eye doctor may recommend Intense pulsed light therapy, warm compresses, TearCare, or LipiFlow for dry eyes. 

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy

Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) treats dry eyes with pulsing light. The light waves released from the IPL device heat the meibomian glands to remove blockages and increase oil flow to the tear film. Additionally, IPL reduces inflammation in the eyes

While each patient is unique, IPL can provide noticeable improvements within a few treatment sessions. According to research, approximately 87% of patients experience improved tear breakup time after IPL treatment. 

Warm Compresses

For many patients, warm compresses are a way to treat dry eyes at home. A warm, soaked towel can help hydrate the eyes, loosen clogged meibomian glands, and relieve discomfort related to dry eyes. 

Use the following steps to prepare a warm compress: 

  • Fill a container with warm water
  • Soak a towel in the water
  • Wring out the excess water after removing the towel
  • Fold the towel and place it on your closed eyes for 10 to 15 minutes

Warm compresses require much more diligence in your daily routine, just like how you need to consistently floss and brush your teeth. While they help with maintenance, warm compresses may not be as effective as in office treatments, as they aren’t sufficient for undoing chronic clogged meibomian glands.


MiBoFlo is an effective, safe, and comfortable way to address the causes of dry eye and meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). This treatment delivers heat to the eyelids and meibomian glands, while gently massaging the area to help increase the flow of natural oil to your tear film.


TearCare is another treatment designed to restore proper oil flow to the tear film. The TearCare applicators rest on your eyelids and warm the meibomian glands, melting blockages. 

While TearCare can restore the tear film, you will likely experience manual meibomian gland expression after your appointment. Placing gentle pressure on the eyelids can help stimulate oil flow. 


LipiFlow is a dry eye treatment also known as thermal pulsation—where heat and massage help warm and express the meibomian glands, improving dry eye symptoms. 

The LipiFlow device features 2 main components: heat and pressure. A small device attached to the eye heats your eyelids, warming and removing blockages in the meibomian glands. The second component gently presses on the eyelid, manually expressing the meibomian glands to help stimulate oil flow to the tear film. 

Which Treatment is Best? 

While all heat treatments can help improve dry eye symptoms, they aren’t ideal for every patient. Your optometrist can help determine the most compatible treatments for your needs in an eye exam. They can then recommend a customized treatment plan to help you enjoy comfortable vision. 

Close-up of a man undergoing a slit-lamp exam.

Don’t Live with Dry Eyes

Dry eyes can be more than uncomfortable—they can lower your quality of life depending on their severity. You can relieve your dry eye symptoms with help from your eye doctor. 

Contact us at Golden Vision Optometry if you experience dry eye symptoms and our team can develop a personal care plan to help ease your discomfort.

Written by Golden Vision

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