Dry eye syndrome, a common eye problem caused by a number of disorders, most often affects older Americans but can occur at any age. While dry eye syndrome serves as an annoyance for many, it can also cause severe eye problems without treatment. Treatment with omega-fat fatty acids can help relieve dry eye syndrome. Always discuss supplements with your medical practitioner before starting.
A survey conducted by DA Schaumberg of the Schepen Eye Institute found that dry eye syndrome affected more women than men and that the risk of dry eye syndrome increased with age. Among women under age 50, dry eye syndrome affected 5.7 percent, while 9.8 percent of those 75 or older complained of the disorder.
A combination of fish oil and flaxseed, both omega-3 fatty acids, improved dry eye syndrome by increasing tear production and volume, according to a small 36-person, double-blind study reported by lead author Jadwiga Cristina Wojtowicz, M.D., of the University of Texas in the 2010 issue of “Cornea.” Omega-3 fatty acids also suppress inflammation, which can cause dry eye syndrome in some people. Meibomium glands in the eye need fatty acids to synthesize oil, notes Jeffrey Gibard, M.D., of Tallman Eye Associates and one of the developers of TheraTears, which makes an oral version containing fish oil and flaxseed for dry eye syndrome.
In the University of Texas study, the dose of fish oil contained 300 mg of DHA and 450 mg of EPA, two fatty acids. Unless your doctor suggests a different dose, registered dietitian Donna Feldman, M.S., of The Diet Channel recommends taking 2 to 3 g of fish oil per day to treat dry eye syndrome.
Fish oil can increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders or in people who take blood thinners. In some people, fish oil can raise low-density lipoprotein levels, the “bad” type of cholesterol, according to MedlinePlus. Fish oil might also decrease the effectiveness of the immune system. Talk with your medical practitioner before starting fish oil supplements, particularly if you have any type of chronic medical condition. Fish oil supplements can also lower vitamin E levels; look for supplements that also contain vitamin E to prevent this.
Many factors can cause dry eye syndrome. Fish oil supplements may be just one treatment that has benefits in your case. Because fish oil can have significant side effects, never adjust the dose yourself if you’re not getting results.
- "Cornea:" Pilot, Prospective, Randomized, Double-masked, Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial of an Omega-3 Supplement for Dry Eye Jadwiga Wojtowicz M.D. et al; 2010
- Dry Eye: Natural History, Diagnosis and Treatment
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Flaxseed Oil
- PubMed: Prevalence of Dry Eye Syndrome Among American Women
- The Diet Channel:Omega-3s: Can Omega-3 Fats Alleviate Dry Eye Syndrome?
- MedlinePlus: Fish Oil