Although most people have never heard of dry eye syndrome, it is the most common of all eye problems, affecting over 30 million people in the US. It occurs when there are not enough tears, or the quality of the tears is unable to adequately moisturize the eyes.
The risk of developing dry eyes increases with age and is more common in women. Eyes can feel gritty, itchy and even painful with symptoms usually worsening as the day goes on. Quality of life is often negatively impacted with driving, reading and computer work becoming more difficult. Dry eye syndrome rarely leads to blindness, but in severe cases can lead to some loss of vision so it is wise to see an eye care professional if you have moderate to severe symptoms.
Non-prescription artificial tears are often tried first to help ease mild symptoms, but they aren’t a cure. In more severe cases, steroid eye drops are given to help reduce inflammation but they are not for long-term use. Researchers are currently working on newer, better treatment options for dry eye sufferers.
Recent studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids like those found in salmon, mackerel, and tuna may help reduce the risk of developing this condition, while higher intakes of omega-6 fats increase the risk. The typical American diet is often overloaded with omega-6 fats which are found in corn, soy and sunflower oils and are present in many processed foods.
Tips for dry eye sufferers:
- Don’t overheat your home.
- Avoid blow-drying your hair.
- Limit exposure to wind, fans and smoke.
- Use a humidifier.
- Omit of corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils (check food labels!).
- Regularly consume cold water fish, walnuts, and flax oil.
- Consider taking a high quality fish oil supplement if you do not regularly eat cold water fish.
The Schepens Eye Research Institute
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition