Some eye doctors recommend eye masks as a way of resolving symptoms of dry eyes. There are several types of eye masks available from stores as well as home remedies that may provide similar benefits. A person should consult their doctor if dry eye symptoms persist or worsen over time.

People may find the regular use of certain eye masks can help relieve symptoms of dry eyes.

Heated masks and sleep masks may help boost eye hydration and potentially treat some of the underlying causes of dry eyes.

In this article, we look at types of eye masks people may use, including store-bought masks and home remedies, as well as the symptoms, causes, and other treatment options for dry eyes.

a woman asleep in bed wearing an eye maskShare on Pinterest
invizbk/Getty Images

People with dry eyes may benefit from using an eye mask. Certain masks may help ease dry eye symptoms by improving hydration, increasing oil production, or reducing inflammation.

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a common condition that can cause dry eyes. It occurs when the meibomian glands in the eyelids do not produce enough oil, or the oil does not release into tears. Oil is an important layer in tears, as it helps prevent the water layer in tears from evaporating.

Applying a heated eye mask to the eyes helps increase oil production, which can reduce tear evaporation.

Other masks may help trap moisture in the eye and improve eye hydration.

Inflammation of the eyes can also cause dry eyes. Using home remedies, such as placing cucumber slices on the eyes, may help reduce any inflammation of the eyes.

Dry eyes can cause the following symptoms in the eyes:

  • a gritty, scratchy feeling
  • burning or stinging sensation
  • irritation
  • redness
  • feeling like something is in the eye
  • excessive watering
  • blurry vision
  • strings of mucus in or near the eye
  • sensitivity to light

Heated eye masks can be a beneficial treatment option to help relieve the symptoms of dry eyes.

According to 2017 research, heated eye masks may help treat MGD, a leading cause of dry eyes in the United States.

The article suggests previous studies demonstrate that the ideal temperature to treat MGD ranges from 89.6ºF (32ºC) to 113ºF (45ºC), with severely obstructed glands requiring temperatures greater than 104ºF (40ºC).

Achieving this temperature can be difficult, as there is a 41ºF (5ºC) difference between the heat a person applies to the eyelid surface and the location of the meibomian glands. Applying temperatures of 113ºF (45ºC) to the outer eyelid may cause damage to the skin.

Reaching the desired temperature is possible with certain heated eye masks. However, a person may need to visit a healthcare professional’s office to undergo the treatment.

Alternatively, there are some heated eye masks that a person can use at home.

A 2014 randomized, controlled treatment trial comparing the use of a heated towel and a heated eye mask found that the eye mask was more effective in treating MGD.

Additionally, a 2015 comparison of self-applied heat therapy found that applying heat using a portable heated eye mask may be beneficial for those with MGD experiencing mild-to-moderate symptoms of dry eye.

The researchers from the 2017 article state that a person can use heated eye masks at home as a supplemental therapy to treat MGD. Individuals can use them daily for 10–15 minutes.

People should follow instructions carefully when using eye masks, particularly heated masks. They need to be careful not to overheat a mask, as this could cause damage to the eye area.

A person may want to talk with their eye doctor before using an eye mask to treat dry eyes. An eye doctor will be able to assess the mask and demonstrate how to use it safely.

If individuals have an underlying health condition, they can also consult with their eye doctor about which treatments are most suitable for them.

There are several types of eye mask a person can choose depending on their preference. They include the below.

Microwave heated eye masks: People can use heated eye masks, which they can heat using a microwave to reach a certain temperature. Individuals then place these on the eyes, usually for about 10 minutes.

Self-heating eye masks: If people do not have access to a microwave or wish to use an eye mask when traveling, these can be a quick and easy option for a heated eye mask.

Some masks heat up with exposure to air. One example is the EyeGiene’s Insta-Warmth System, which uses warming wafers that heat up once exposed to air. People place these wafers into a pouched eye mask and place this over the eyes.

Sleep masks: Certain sleep goggles or sleep masks can be effective in treating people with severe dry eyes. These sleep masks work to trap moisture and keep the eyes hydrated.

People may find that home remedies are effective as eye masks to treat dry eyes.

Applying slices of cucumber to the eyes may help relieve dry eye symptoms, as well as providing the following benefits to the eye and surrounding area:

  • adding hydration to the eyes and surrounding tissues
  • reducing dark circles with its high levels of vitamin K
  • helping reducing inflammation due to its lignans

Using warm teabags on the eyes may help relieve MGD that leads to dry eyes. Warm eye masks or compresses on the eyes can increase oil production from the meibomian glands in the eyelids.

Green tea also contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate, a substance with anti-inflammatory effects. However, there is little research to show any clear benefits of using tea bags in this way.

According to a 2014 article, the use of cucumber and cucumber extracts in cosmetics is safe, with no known adverse effects. This means that most people can safely use cucumber on their skin.

However, if individuals have an allergy to cucumbers, they should avoid placing this fruit on the eyes in case of an allergic reaction.

Some research recommends the use of home versions of heated eye masks. People can use hot water to soak a cloth to use as a warm compress, although it may be difficult to keep it at the recommended temperatures.

The article suggests alternatives to maintain a higher temperature for longer, such as:

  • teabags
  • rice in a sock
  • a potato wrapped in a cloth

However, these items may easily become too hot to place on the eye, so people will need to take care when using them. If individuals wish to use any of these home remedies, it may be best to speak to an eye doctor before using them. An eye doctor can recommend suitable options. Additionally, people may want to check any heated items with a thermometer before placing them on the eye area.

Dry eyes occur if there is a lack of tear production, if tears evaporate from the eye too quickly, or if there is an issue with the quality of tears. This can be due to a range of factors, including:

  • being over the age of 65 years
  • hormonal changes in females, such as menopause, taking oral contraceptives, or pregnancy
  • side effects of certain medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, or blood pressure medications
  • certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or thyroid conditions
  • inflammatory eye conditions, such as blepharitis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • exposure to wind, smoke, sun, or dry climates
  • long periods of screen use
  • wearing contact lenses
  • refractive eye surgery

Alternative home remedies for dry eyes include:

  • using over-the-counter artificial tears
  • using a warm compress or eye mask to treat conditions such as MGD
  • using a humidifier indoors
  • increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake or taking a supplement
  • taking regular breaks from using a screen and blinking regularly
  • drinking 8–10 glasses of water each day to stay hydrated
  • wearing wraparound sunglasses when outdoors to protect from sun and wind

If home remedies are not effective, medical treatments may include:

  • prescription eye drops to increase tear production
  • blocking the tear ducts with punctal plugs or surgery if necessary
  • lid massage and eyelid cleaners to reduce any inflammation

People can speak with a doctor if they have any symptoms of dry eye. A healthcare professional can carry out a full eye examination to check for the underlying cause and any other eye issues.

A doctor may check the inside and outside areas of the eye. They may also carry out tests to check the volume of tear production and quality of tears.

Through testing and taking a full medical history, a doctor may be able to diagnose whether individuals have dry eyes, what could be causing the dryness, and treatment options.

Certain eye masks may help relieve dry eye symptoms. Depending on the underlying cause of dry eyes, eye masks may increase oil production, improve hydration, or reduce inflammation.

People can buy eye masks for dry eyes from a store or try home remedies. If eye masks do not resolve the symptoms of dry eyes, a person can try other medications or home remedies.

If symptoms persist, individuals can talk with their doctor about the underlying cause of dry eyes and follow their advice for appropriate treatment.