Omega-3 fatty acids in our diet can significantly improve dry eye symptoms and signs.

Research now shows that Omega 3 fatty acids in our diet can help bring relief to dry eye sufferers. Dry eye symptoms typically occur when there is an imbalance in the tear layer on the surface of the eye. Arguably the most important layer of the tears is the lipid layer. The lipid or oil layer is produced by the meibomian glands of the upper and lower eyelid.

Oil glands of the upper and lower eyelilds

We have approximately 25 – 40 glands in the upper lid and 20 – 30 glands in the lower lid. When the glands are not functioning properly, they don’t secrete enough oil into the tears, which causes the tears to evaporate too quickly and leads to symptoms of dryness, irritation and burning.

Omega-3 fatty acids explained

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids because our bodies cannot produce them. This means that we must get them from our diet.
  • We require omega-3 for numerous body functions, including brain and eye function.
  • Foods such as fatty fish are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which promote various health benefits.
  • Omega-3 can also be found in plant-based foods (dark green leafy vegetables, flax, and nuts), but these do not contain EPA and DHA.
  • Obtaining the health-promoting amounts of EPA and DHA from food can be challenging, so many people choose to supplement their diet.

Omega 3 rich foods: kale, spinach, flax, salmon

Omega-3 & Dry Eye, what does the research show?

Clinical research has shown that omega-3 supplementation is beneficial for dry eye symptoms (how patients feel) and dry eye signs (what eye doctors see when looking at the eye). A recent study from September 2016 shows a significant improvement in how patients felt after taking omega-3 fatty acids for 12 weeks. The eye doctors also saw a significant improvement in how the surface of the eye looked after the same time period. Researchers are now thinking that omega-3 fatty acids improve dry eye by reducing inflammation of the ocular surface and the meibomian glands themselves.

How much omega-3 should I take?

In the study referenced above, the subjects took a dosage of 1680 mg of EPA and 560 mg DHA each day. It is also important to note that the omega-3 was in the ester based form, not the triglyceride form. Two of the most common products used by doctors are EPA+ from Nutra Sea Professional and PRN Dry Eye Omega.

Two popular brands of omega-3 for dry eye disease

In summary, we are learning more and more about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and dry eye disease. We can now confidently recommend this essential nutrient to our patients knowing that it will most likely improve their symptoms.