(BPT) – If your eyes feel as dry as the desert or you experience a stinging sensation that makes you feel like you’ve spent the last eight hours lost in a sandstorm, you might have a condition called dry eye. About 40-million Americans are affected by dry eye and ocular surface diseases, according to the Schepens Eye Research Institute, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Many suffer from the symptoms without even realizing there’s treatment.
The eye depends upon a flow of tears for consistent lubrication and protection. These tears are created from a combination of water, oil and mucus which are secreted by special glands located around the eye. An imbalance in this tear system can lead to inadequate eye lubrication, causing irritation or blurred vision. A person with dry eye may also produce excess tears, which are caused when the eye sends a distress signal through the nervous system for more lubrication. Since these tears are mostly water, they lack the lubricating qualities or composition of normal tears, failing to properly coat the eye’s surface. Either way, a lack of quality tears can cause dry eye. If left untreated, this condition can damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision.
Inflammation is a hallmark of dry eye. Reducing the inflammation on the surface of the eye and regulating the glands that produce tears is essential to effectively manage the condition.
Most people assume these symptoms are a result of age. Dry eye is a part of the natural aging process, as a majority of people over the age 65 experience some dry eye symptoms.
But most people also assume there is no treatment for the discomfort. As a result, many sufferers reach for artificial tears or rewetting drops, hoping for immediate relief. Self-medicating, by using over-the-counter treatments, can delay diagnosis and effective therapy. The results are often temporary as eye health is a systemic process and this inflammation needs to be addressed within the body.
There are a number of options available today for dry eye sufferers. Since diet affects eye health, some optometrists are directing patients to nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids, to manage symptoms.
Daily supplements of flaxseed oil or fish oil, when used alone or in tandem with lubricating eye drops, appear to reduce dry eye symptoms, including burning, stinging, redness and intermittent visual disturbances, according to AllAboutVision.com.
Omega -3 fatty acids are important for maintaining significant structural components of tissue cell membranes throughout the body and may help reduce inflammation that can contribute to dry eye syndrome. Supplements containing fish oil derived from wild fish, as a source of omega-3, are thought to possess more nutritional benefits.
Other nutrients found to help dry eye conditions include vitamin A, as retinyl palmitate, and vitamin E, as d-alpha tocopherol. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble (absorbed by the body with the help of fats) antioxidant shown to protect corneal surface health. Fat-soluble vitamin E is also thought to protect the cells of the eyes from damage caused by unstable molecules which break down healthy tissue. These compounds are found in a healthy diet and are important in stabilizing omega-3 fatty acid formulas. Green tea extract has also been shown to contain antioxidants for systemic and ocular tissues.
Since long-term use of fish oil may cause a vitamin E deficiency in some people, fish oil supplements containing vitamin E are ideal.
Eye vitamins, such as EyePromise EZ Tears, contain nutrients including omega-3’s, vitamin A, and vitamin E, to attack the cause of dry eye by improving the quality of the tears produced and provide rapid relief by soothing inflammation.
The first step toward relief is talking to an eye care professional about your symptoms and concerns. After conducting a comprehensive examination, including tests to evaluate for dry eye, an optometrist or ophthalmologist can recommend the best course of action.