Nutrition and Dry Eyes

May 16, 2014

Foods that we eat can have an impact on our overall eye health as well as to help preserve our vision. The first part of our series of nutrition and the eye will focus on foods that help reduce dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition that affects men and women of all ages. There is an imbalance of the tear film. The tear film is composed of three layers: Aqueous ( water), lipid (oil), and mucous layer. In dry eye syndrome, certain factors can disrupt the balance of these 3 layers.

What are the symptoms of dry eye syndrome?
– Burning Eyes
– watery eyes
– Foreign body sensation
– Redness
– Discharge
– Light sensitivity

What are some of the causes of dry eye syndrome?
– Environmental conditions
– inflammation of the eyelids
– certain medications
– systemic diseases (such as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Sjogren’s syndrome)
– prolonged computer use
– contact lenses

How can we control dry eye syndrome with diet?

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that your body uses to produce new cells, muscles, nerve and organs. Your body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids, so you must get them from your food or supplements. Omega 3 fatty acids help decrease dry eye syndrome in women. EPA and DHA are contained within these fish oils. These fish oils help decrease inflammation in the body. Foods that contain a higher portion of omega 3 fatty acids include cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, rainbow trout, mackerel and tuna. Other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, walnut oil, canola oil, soy, wheat germ, and dark green leafy vegetables. We normally recommend eating cold-water fish 2-3x/ per week. Or if the preference is Flaxseed, then one tablespoon ground flaxseed or wheat germ per day is required to make a difference. If food or flaxseed is hard to consume in the diet then we recommend an omega 3 supplement.

Anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids may help blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) and meibomianitis (blocked oil glands) by decreasing inflammation. While you increase your consumption of omega 3 fatty acids, you should be careful to limit omega 6 fatty acids at the same time. This interferes with your body’s ability to absorb and use the good omega 3 fats. Foods high in omega 6 fatty acids include fried and highly processed foods such as those made with cooking oils and trans-fats. Ideally we should have equal amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in our diets (1:1 Ratio).

There are many treatment options available for dry eye syndrome. Here at EyedeologyTM, we examine the main cause of dry eyes and recommend treatment options depending on the cause and severity of the condition.

With patience and perseverance, some of the following treatments can decrease the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.

1. Artificial tear drops
2. Warm compresses or heated eye masks and eyelid hygiene
3. Anti-inflammatory medications (such as Restasis or mild steroid
eye drops)
4. Omega 3 fatty acids ( food sources as discussed earlier or oral
supplements can be taken)
5. Punctal occlusion ( blockage tear ducts to decrease tear drainage).

If you think you may have dry eye syndrome, discuss your treatment options with us here at EyedeologyTM. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids support healthy tear production and overall macular health. It is thought that omega 3 promotes healthy blood vessel growth and circulation in the eyes.

Reference: Eyefoods by Dr. Laurie Capogna and Dr. Barbara Pelletier


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Dr. Farrah Sunderji, OD