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Vitamins for Dry Eyes: What Supplements Can Help?

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A variety of eye-healthy foods sitting out on a table, including salmon, almonds, spinach, dried fruit, blueberries, eggs, and carrots

Irritating dry eyes can disrupt your day, but you can help manage your symptoms with proper nutrition. It can be challenging to get your total daily intake of vitamins in your diet. But supplements like vitamins A, D, and C and omega-3 can help support healthy, hydrated eyes.

You can make diet changes to emphasize the intake of these nutrients, or you can talk to your optometrist during your comprehensive eye exam to discuss supplements and get recommendations on the most effective brands.

What Is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye disease is a common condition that occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or when your tears evaporate too quickly. Tears are critical to eye health, so if you have dry eyes, they may feel:

  • Gritty
  • Burning or stinging
  • Sensitive to light

In severe cases, dry eye disease can cause corneal damage and lead to vision problems. 

Anatomy of Tears

Tears are not just watery substances that spill out of our eyes when we cry. There are 3 types of tears

  • Basal
  • Reflex
  • Emotional

Basal tears lubricate and nourish the eye and are continually produced to keep the eye moist. Reflex tears, like when you chop onions, are created to flush out irritants. Emotional tears are triggered by emotions and contain higher levels of stress hormones.

The eye’s surface is protected by a layer of tears called the tear film, which keeps the eyes moist, nourished, and free from irritants. Dry eye disease develops when there’s a problem with the tear film. 

Most cases of dry eye are caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. The meibomian glands produce the oil layer of the tear film, which is critical to keeping moisture on the eye’s surface.

Risk Factors for Dry Eye

Various risk factors can play a role in developing dry eye disease, including:

  • Natural aging process
  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes
  • Medications, such as antihistamines and antidepressants
  • Environmental factors, such as smoke and dry air
  • Long periods of screen time without blinking

Fortunately, treatments are available. During an eye exam, your optometrist can assess your tear film, identify the underlying cause of your symptoms, and recommend a treatment plan.

Treatment Options for Dry Eye

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your optometrist may recommend artificial tears, over-the-counter eye drops that lubricate and moisten the eyes, or warm compresses to ease discomfort.They can also offer in-office treatments and targeted solutions with:

  • BlephEx 
  • Punctal plugs
  • Prescription eye drops

Combined with these treatments, your optometrist can also recommend nutritional supplements to help support your eye health.

A woman smiling and pointing to her eyes with her index fingers.

Supplements for Dry Eyes

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 are essential fatty acids that play a crucial role in maintaining eye health. Studies have shown that omega-3 can help alleviate dry eyes by improving the quality of tears and reducing eye inflammation. 

Omega-3s are found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. While you can get omega-3 from flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts, it’s a different type that your body can’t use as effectively.

If you don’t eat enough of these foods, you can take omega-3 supplements.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for maintaining healthy eyesight and is critical in producing tears. Vitamin A is found in many foods, including carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and liver. 

If you’re not getting enough vitamin A from your diet, you can take beta-carotene supplements, which your body converts to vitamin A.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for the absorption of calcium and the maintenance of bone health. However, recent studies show that vitamin D may also play a role in reducing inflammation and dry eye disease. 

Your body uses sunlight to make vitamin D. You can also get it from fortified milk and cereal and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Still, it isn’t naturally found in many foods.

Alternatively, you can take vitamin D supplements, especially in the winter.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the eyes. Studies have shown that vitamin C can help reduce the risk of dry eye disease and improve tear production. 

Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, and red bell peppers. While a vitamin C deficiency is rare, you can take an ascorbic acid supplement if you’re worried about getting enough in your diet.

Nourish Your Eye Health

Nutritional supplements can fill in the gaps you’re missing in your diet and help improve your dry eye symptoms. However, always consult your optometrist to help find the right vitamins and minerals for your unique needs. 

Book an appointment with Advance Eye Care Center in Regina to discuss your dry eye symptoms and explore treatment options.

Written by Myles Bokinac

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