Three Foods That May Alleviate Chronic Dry Eye
Chronic dry eye syndrome is the silent epidemic of the modern age. With people spending more time in front of computer screens—which is one cause of this condition—it's not surprising that about 25 percent of Canadians suffer from some kind of dry eye disease. Although there are numerous prescription and over-the-counter medications available that can alleviate the symptoms of chronic dry eye, adding a few eye-friendly foods to your diet can also help. Here are three foods that may alleviate this condition.
What is Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome?
Chronic dry eye syndrome describes a condition where the eyes are constantly dry. For a variety of reasons, the body fails to produce enough tears—which are a combination of water, oils, and mucus—to keep the eyes lubricated, leading to the development of a variety of uncomfortable symptoms including:
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Itchiness, scratchiness
- Inflammation, burning sensation
- A gritty sensation; feeling as though there's sand in the eye
- Eye fatigue
- Water streaming from the eyes periodically
- Inability to or difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Eyes are excessively bothered by smoke or wind
- Stringy mucus in the eyes or collected at the corners
There are a number of reasons why a person would develop chronic dry eye. One common cause endemic to the modern era is constantly staring at computer and television screens for hours on end. The eyes have to constantly focus and refocus on the screen, especially if you look away to review paperwork or speak to another person. This can put undue strain on the eye muscles, reducing their ability to produce tears. You also blink a lot less when looking at these screens, which decreases the amount of lubrication the eyes receive.
Other causes of chronic dry eye include:
- Certain medications such as antihistamines and high blood pressure medicine
- Age (people over 50 tend to produce less tears)
- Damaged tear glands
- Laser eye surgery (usually chronic dry eyes is a temporary side effect)
- Postmenopausal (hormonal changes causes women to produce less tears)
- Diseases such as Sjogren's syndrome and thyroid disorders
- Long-term contact lens wear
Treating Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome
Depending on the cause of the condition, the eye doctor will likely prescribe medication that will either stimulate tear production or minimize symptoms by moisturizing eyes. However, there are also a few foods you can add to your diet that may naturally result in an increase in the amount of tears your eyes produce.
Studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acid can help alleviate dry eye syndrome. Researchers in one double-blind study found that 65 percent of patients in the study who took 500mg of EPA and 325mg of DHA supplements twice a day for 3 months showed marked improvement in their symptoms.
The nutrients in these essential fatty acids contribute to the production of water and oils in the tear film. Cold-water fish, such as tuna, salmon, sardines, and halibut, are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. If you don't like the taste of fish or are a vegetarian, you can also get adequate amounts of this essential nutrient from flax seed.
A very small study published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that caffeine consumption increased tear volume in all the participants in the program. The researchers did discover that certain genetic markers caused some people to produce more tears in reaction to the caffeine than others. However, all of the subjects experienced higher tear production after consuming caffeine vs. taking the placebo.
The method of action for the increased volume is unknown at this time, but caffeine also stimulates the production of other bodily fluids such as saliva and digestive juices. People who consume caffeine on a regular basis were also less likely to have dry eyes, possibly due to its affect on fluid production in the body. If you're not sensitive to caffeine, you can get adequate amounts of it from coffee, tea, and chocolate.
Potassium is an electrolyte that is essential for human life. However, this nutrient also has an impact on the development of the tear film. People who have chronic dry eye tend to have lower levels of potassium in their system.
Bananas are a good source of potassium. However, you can also get this nutrient from a variety of other sources including dark leafy greens, potatoes, white beans, and avocados.
If you suffer from dry eye syndrome, it's a good idea to meet with an optometrist near you who can advise you on the best way to treat the condition based on your needs and preferences. For more information, contact a local eye clinic, like Crowfoot Vision Center.