Do Warm Compresses on Eyelids Change the Corneal Shape?


Rigorous eye/eyelid rubbing can change the corneal shape permanently, such as in Keratoconus. Rigorous or 15min-duration hot compresses can also change the corneal shape temporarily but it is not permanent from what I could find in the literature. If your vision is blurry after a long session of warm compresses, it is likely due to the release of meibum oil: the vision should recover in a few minutes with blinking. If more than a few minutes go by before the vision can be “blinked-clear” it may be possible the heat has changed the corneal shape and it should return to normal in less than an hour. 

I have not seen a report where warm compresses, performed 15min x 2 per day without burning the skin, has caused permanent corneal shape changes. 

Clearly, though, do not use hot compresses enough to burn the skin. 

Gentle warm compresses with blinking and gently pushing on the glands (ie, not rubbing) is likely the safest option for those who have Meibomian gland loss and have to apply warm compresses daily. 

Here are some articles that help explain the issue. 

Warm Compresses and the Risks of Elevated Corneal Temperature With Massage

Blackie, Caroline A. OD, PhD; McMonnies, Charles W. PhD; Korb, Donald R. OD

Author Information

doi: 10.1097/ICO.0b013e318292a7b7
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To quantify the changes in corneal temperature resulting from intensive warm compress (WC) application with minimal pressure and to review the significance of these changes within the context of the peer-reviewed literature.


WC were applied intensively and unilaterally at 45 ± 0.5°C for 30 minutes with the contralateral eye serving as a control. Outer upper eyelid and central corneal surface temperatures were measured using an Infrared pyrometer at baseline. The WC were removed for repeat measurements of the outer upper eyelid surface and central corneal temperatures every 2 minutes and replaced with a new WC heated to 45 ± 0.5°C. Lid and corneal temperatures were monitored for 10 minutes after the final WC application.


The mean age of the subjects was 37.1 ± 15.0 years (n = 12). The mean maximum outer upper lid temperature of 42.2 ± 1.3°C was reached after 6 minutes. The mean maximum corneal temperature of 39.4 ± 0.7°C was reached after 8 minutes of heating. The control eye showed no significant change in temperature from baseline throughout the experimental period.


These data show that WC use for lid warming, even when only minimal contact pressure is applied, also transfers significant heat to the cornea. Corneal temperatures reach peak temperature after about 8 minutes of WC application. Recent reports discussing the increased potential for transient and long-term corneal molding subsequent to the heat and pressure of WC application are briefly reviewed.

Published in Primary Care

Journal Scan / Research · June 06, 2013

Warm Compresses With Massage Raise Risk for Corneal Damage




This abstract is available on the publisher’s site.

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