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You are what you eat, as they say, and that adage applies to our eye health. In addition to a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, research suggests that taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (like fish oil) can reduce symptoms of dry eye.
Dry eye occurs when your tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Sometimes you don’t produce enough volume or high-quality tears. Regardless of the cause, it can be uncomfortable at best. You may experience a stinging or burning sensation. Other symptoms include sensitivity to light, redness, watery eyes and even blurred vision.
It’s no day at the beach, but there can be relief. Research studies looking into the benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplements have found fewer dry eye symptoms in people who take the supplement. It changes the physiology of the eye, as these fatty acids can improve the eye’s oil film. That improves dry eye symptoms and reduces the need for artificial tears.
You might be wondering how much is enough? Studies show that participants saw the most benefit from taking 180 milligrams of eicosatetraenoic (EPA) acid and 120 milligrams of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), taken twice a day. It’s important to note that high doses of the supplement can produce unfavorable results in some patients. For example, some people react with increased bleeding, higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol and blood sugar control problems. Some people have reported a fishy aftertaste or odor after taking the supplement.
Not a fan of supplements? No problem. You can get the same benefits from forgoing the capsule and eating fish. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults eat fish rich in Omega-3s, at least twice a week. Think catfish, halibut, salmon, striped sea bass, and albacore tuna. Again, proceed with caution when making drastic dietary changes. Some fish can contain high levels of mercury. While the mercury in fish usually isn’t a concern for most healthy adults, it can be problematic for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. If that’s the case for you, consult with your doctor about how you should change your diet.
In short, fish oil—whether capsule or whole food version —can be a boon to your health. If you’re concerned about dry eyes and willing to make some lifestyle changes, fish oil may be the answer. Just make sure you’re doing so under the care of a physician. He or she can review your medical history to ensure it’s appropriate for you and help you determine the right dose for your situation.
As with any eye-related condition, not all cases are equal. It’s best to see your Midwest Eye Consultants doctor if you’ve had prolonged signs and symptoms of dry eyes, including red, irritated, tired or painful eyes. He or she can take steps to determine if further course of action is needed.