What is the Connection Between Omega-3s and Dry Eye?

Dr Eric J. Poulson, MD
omega-3 and eye health

Dry eye is one of the most common eye conditions that can affect your day-to-day life. Dry eye syndrome is a chronic eye disease that is due to increased tear evaporation or decreased tear production. 

Causes of Dry Eye

Chronic dry eyes are often a result of meibomian gland dysfunction. These glands are located in the upper eyelid and they play a major role in the lubrication of the eyes. 

The meibomian glands secrete meibum, an oil-like substance that helps in preventing tears from evaporating quickly. If the glands do not function properly or secrete an adequate amount of oil, it may lead to dry eyes. The tears will evaporate quickly, thus resulting in dry eye syndrome

Connection Between Omega-3s and Eye Health

Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in eye health. DHA, a polyunsaturated fatty acid is naturally concentrated in the retina of the eye. It promotes healthy retinal function.

DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that helps in promoting macular health. Studies also show that omega-3s may potentially help reduce dry eye syndrome, though not all studies are conclusive. 

Can Omega-3 Treat Dry Eye?

Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the health and well-being of a person. Not only do they safeguard against numerous health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and heart diseases, but omega-3s also help in treating dry eyes. 

Incorporating foods rich in omega-3 in your diet is a good idea for your health and if you do suffer from dry eyes. 

Importance of Omega-3 For Eye Health

Infants’ Vision

Several clinical studies have demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids are important for normal infant vision development. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in maternal breast milk and they are also added to some supplemented infant formulas. Omega-3 supplements help in stimulating vision development in infants

Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet of pregnant women also prove to be important in normal infant vision development.

Adult Eyes

Several studies show that incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into the diet through supplementation or food can help protect adult eyes from dry eye disease. More research is being done in randomized multicentre studies that are looking into how omega‐3s’ further benefit in dry eye disease. 

Topical eye drops containing omega 3 fatty acids are now available on the market as an additional aid against dry eye disease. These can be used in combination with healthy dietary changes that include omega 3 fatty acids in various forms. The positive effect of these drops on dry eyes is still under review

Apart from dry eyes, omega-3 is good for maintaining general eye health. They help in protecting the eyes against the development of serious conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration. 

Foods Rich in Omega-3s 

Include omega-3 foods in your diet. 

The best food sources that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and herring. A minimum of two servings of cold-water fish per week is recommended to reduce eye risk as well as heart problems. 

If you do not like fish, take omega-3 rich fish oil supplements. They are available in capsule and liquid forms and have a non-fishy taste. Taking one capsule per day will give you the required omega-3 dosage. 

Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, green leafy vegetables, walnuts, chia seeds, and soybeans. 

Although plant oils do contain omega-3, such as soybean oil and canola oil it is best to limit their use for frying foods. 

Visit an Ophthalmologist

If you are uncertain about your dry eyes or are experiencing chronic bouts of dry eyes it is best to visit your family doctor or an ophthalmologist, a doctor that specializes in diseases of the eye. Do not rely on just eye drops to deal with dry eyes.

The eye doctor will conduct an eye exam to determine the source of the issue and severity of the condition. They will prescribe dry eye disease treatment accordingly.

The first thing they might suggest is an omega-3 rich diet or supplements as it is a simple, non-invasive solution. If necessary, they may recommend other medical treatments for dry eyes. 

Make an appointment with the doctor to help relieve dry eye disease. Make sure you include omega-3 foods in your diet to prevent dry eyes. 

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