Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome negatively impacts the quality of life for many millions of people worldwide, however, a recent study shows that there just may be hope for people who suffer with dry eyes. The secret lies in omega-3 fatty acids. That's just one more item you can add to the list of fish oil benefits!
Dry eyes can be caused by insufficient tears to keep the ocular surface lubricated, unhealthy tear film or by environmental irritants, particularly in dry and dusty areas of the world.
The effect of dry eye syndrome can cause pain and inconvenience to the sufferer who may have to deal with dry, red eyes or excessive tears being produced. Dry eye syndrome causes difficulty when reading or driving at night. The reduced vision can also cause problems with computer screen work.
The medical answer is to use artificial tears applied as either eye drops or as a misting spray applied over closed eyelids. However, these do not treat the underlying cause of dry eye and are temporary fixes.
Clinical Trial using Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Treat Patients with Dry Eye SyndromeA comprehensive clinical trial was completed at two eye centers to study the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on patients suffering from dry eye syndrome. The trial aimed to assess whether these supplements could produce measurable improvement for dry eye sufferers.
The 518 participants were over 16 years of age and included 268 females and 254 males around 40 years of age. They all had symptoms of dry eye but had no other pre-existing ocular disease. They had not had LASIK surgery and did not have a history of liver disease, HIV, hepatitis, diabetes, pregnancy or cognitive or psychiatric disorder. They were not allowed to use topical medications or contact lenses during the three-month trial.
The participants were all living in the plains and foothills of northern India, which has a dry, windy climate, and high exposure to UV rays which commonly leads to dry eye syndrome. Their natural diet lacked any natural intake of omega-3.
One group of participants was given a twice-daily 500mg omega-3 supplement containing EPA and DHA while the placebo group was given a capsule of corn oil. The monthly follow-up visits recorded common symptoms such as itching and burning of the eye, a gritty sensation, redness, blurred vision, excessive blinking and tired eyes. Tests including Schirmer's 1 tear production test, tear film break-up time (TBUT) and Rose Bengal staining.
After three months, 65% of patients who had taken omega-3 supplements no longer had any significant symptoms of dry eye syndrome and 35% saw a moderate improvement in their symptoms.
In the placebo group, 33% of patients had significant improvement in their symptoms and 67% saw a moderate improvement. The placebo group saw no improvement in their Rose Bengal score but there was significant improvement in the omega-3 group. In chronic blepharitis cases, 20% of the omega-3 group had abnormal values in the Schirmer's tests compared to 38% in the placebo group. The most significant improvement was in the TBUT tests where over 90% of the omega-3 group had an improved score compared to just 18.75% of those receiving a placebo.
The study concluded that omega-3 fatty acids had a beneficial role in improving the symptoms of dry eye syndrome although more research is recommended to support the correlation.
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