• Can I use warm compresses on my stye for more than 10 minutes?


    Question:

    With a stye, everything I read says to use warm compresses for 10 minutes at a time. I would like to use a low temp compress at 10 to 15 degrees above body temperature, and leave it on longer to help move the stye along. Can I leave an eye compress on for longer than 10 minutes?


    Answer:

    Warm compresses with lid massage are the best way to treat styes. I usually recommend patients do them two to four times per day. There was a study that showed it required 2-3 minutes of sustained heat to the surface of the eyelid to liquify the oil inside the stye under the eyelid. So, most ophthalmologists usually recommend applying heat for 5 minutes at a time. 

    As far as the maximum amount of time, there are no set guidelines. However, I would caution against applying heat continuously since constant warmth will dilate the local blood vessels and can increase the amount of swelling of the eyelid. There are limited returns from keeping the eyelid heated, as once the oils have been liquified, you've achieved your goal for that round of the warm compress. 

    However, the very important and often overlooked part after the warm compress is to massage the eyelid during or after the warm compress. This breaks down and mobilizes the hardened oil in the stye, allowing it to drain through the natural opening of the oil gland. If you just heat the oil glands without massaging, the oil will return to the regular temperature without any resolution of the stye. I recommend using your fingertips to make a kneading, circular motion over the stye to help break down the congealed oils. There are also limits as to how much someone should massage the eyelid, as constant rubbing on the surface of the skin can cause extreme chafing and breakdown of the skin.

    As a result, please follow your ophthalmologist’s guidelines as there are tradeoffs for being overzealous with warm compresses with lid massage.


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