If you’re over 55, stare at a computer screen all day, and have had a cataract operation, it’s likely you have all the makings of a serious dry eye problem.
And you are not alone.
Americans spend an astounding $3.8 billion on dry eye symptom relief every year (1). Unfortunately, the majority of dry eye treatments options, such as various types of saline eye drop solutions and topical lubricants, can be inconvenient and uncomfortable to apply. In addition, the results are often disappointing.
New research on chronic dry eyes, however, is prompting more and more ophthalmologists and optometrists to recommend another treatment option: Increase the intake of omega-3 from fish and fish/cod liver oil.
Why would getting enough omega-3 be important for helping treat dry eye symptoms? Because at the heart of most dry eye problems, chronic inflammation is wreaking havoc.
A long list of drugs, dry heat or air conditioning, longterm contact lens wear, smoking, and diseases like Sjogren’s Syndrome all contribute to the prevalence of dry eyes (2). However, the principal cause of dry eyes seems to be the dysfunction of the Meibomian gland, due to chronic inflammation (3).
The Meibomian glands are located behind the eyelids. Their role is to produce the necessary fats for the tears, which prevents the tears from evaporating and leaving the eye surface unprotected.
Inflammation disturbs the production and secretion of the lipids emitted by the Meibomian glands. The Meibomian glands create a mixture of lipids containing cholesterol wax esters, diesters, triacylglycerol, free cholesterol, phospholipids and free fatty acids. When the inflammation kicks in, however, the quality of this lipid mixture is changed, making it stiffer and more viscous. As a result, the lipids cease to effectively protect the tears and eye surface, resulting in familiar dry eye symptoms (4).
The tear film is comprised of three layers: Lipid, aqueous and mucous. The outer oily layer prevents the evaporation of tears. The middle aqueous layer brings oxygen to the surface of the eye. The inner mucous layer helps stabilize and spread the tear film. All layers contribute to keeping the eye moist and healthy.
It is worth noting most patients with dry eyes have an overproduction of inflammation signals. In other words, the patient’s inflammation response is going in hyperdrive.
But what do omega-3 fatty acids have to do with the Meibomian glands?
Scientists speculate that omega-3 fatty acids work in two different ways to reduce inflammation in the eye. First, the omega-3s suppress inflammation within the Meibomian glands by inhibiting the inflammation signals. In addition, they also help the meibum lipids become more fluid (3).
Besides exploring the theory behind how omega-3 works in the eye, researchers have also been studying the practical application of omega-3 supplementation on patients with dry eye symptoms.
In June, one study from India suggested that omega-3 supplements could help relieve computer-related dry eye symptoms, adding more data to a growing body of research (5). In addition, a 2013 placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized study found that 65 percent of patients who received omega-3 supplements experienced significant improvement of their dry eye symptoms within 3 months (6).
Furthermore, an investigation on Meibomian gland cells showed that DHA and EPA from fish oil reduced inflammation markers. In addition, the researchers found that the EPA and DHA increased the production of Resolvin D1. This is especially significant since Resolvin D1 is derived from the fatty acids found in cod liver oil and helps to restore tissue back to its non-inflamed state (7).
At Omega3 Innovations, we have also been doing our own research on dry eyes. In the spring of 2015, a pilot study using one vial of Omega Cure Extra Strength (3000 mg EPA/DHA) once a day found that 70% of the participants experienced relief from the symptoms of chronic dry eyes within three to four weeks.
While the research on omega-3 supplements and dry eyes is exciting, it is important to keep in that mind that quality, consistency and dose do matter. Some research studies suggest the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 don’t kick in unless you get a dose equal to at least 2700 mg of EPA/DHA – or roughly 8 – 10 regular fish oil capsules per day.
In addition, as the studies above suggest, consuming enough omega-3 isn’t a quick fix when it comes to improving dry eye symptoms. It may take anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks of consistent daily use before you start feeling a difference.
Additionally, using an oil with a low oxidation level (meaning a fresh oil) will increase the potency factor.
To make it simple for consumers, we’ve designed Omega Cure Extra Strength. Each pre-measured vial contains 3000 mg of EPA/DHA. What’s more, as an ultra-fresh cod liver oil, the oil has no fishy taste or smell, making it easy to drink straight or add into juices, yogurt and smoothies.
With the increasing use of computers and an ever-aging population, the number of people affected by dry eyes symptoms will undoubtedly continue to grow. As researchers, ophthalmologists, optometrists, and patients can agree, we need lower cost, effective treatment options.
Looking at the above research, omega-3 supplementation could be one such answer — and one that can have a bigger health impact than just treating the eyes.
As one of the participants in our study commented, using Omega Cure Extra Strength not only reduced her need for eye drops and gave her more comfort when using contact lenses. It also helped improve her focus and made her skin and hair softer.
1. Evolution of Dry Eye Treatment: Focusing on MGD. TearScience.
2. Harding, Mary. Dry Eyes. PatientPlus. December 12, 2014.
3. Qiao, Jing, and Xiaoming Yan. Emerging Treatment Options for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction. Clinical Ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.) 7 (2013): 1797–1803. PMC. September 9, 2013.
4. Knop, Erich et al. The International Workshop on Meibomian Gland Dysfunction: Report of the Subcommittee on Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathophysiology of the Meibomian Gland. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 52.4 (2011): 1938–1978. March 30, 2011.
5. Daniells, Stephen. Too much time in front of a screen? Omega-3s May Ease Computer-Related Dry Eye. NutraIngredients-USA.com. June 22, 2014.
6. Bhargava, Rahul et al. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Dry Eye Syndrome. International Journal of Ophthalmology 6.6 (2013): 811–816. PMC. December 18, 2013.
7. Hampel et al. In Vitro Effects of Docosahexaenoic and Eicosapentaenoic Acid on Human Meibomian Gland Epithelial Cells. Journal of Experimental Eye Research. 2015 Nov;140:139-48. August 31, 2015.