Some days, your eyes are so dry you can’t open them in the morning. And throughout the day, your eyes sting, burn, and feel gritty. Your eyes may get red, your vision may blur, and your eyes and eyelids may feel tired and heavy.
As you might expect, dry eye syndrome is all about your tears: Either you aren’t producing enough tears, your tears aren’t watery enough to keep your eye surface moist, or your tears aren’t oily enough and they evaporate too quickly. That’s right, tears need a specific water-to-oil-to-mucus balance to do their job, but many of us produce tears that aren’t quite right.
How many? Around 10 million Americans suffer from moderate to severe dry eye syndrome, with up to 30 million more dealing with milder symptoms. And it strikes women more than twice as much as men.
So far this year, researchers have published more than 150 studies related to dry eye syndrome.
Other than simply being female, you face a higher risk of troubling dry eye syndrome if you:
- are age 50 or older
- have a thyroid disorder
- have diabetes
- take certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, and antidepressants
- use estrogen-based hormone replacement therapy
- suffer from allergies
- wear contact lenses
- use computers extensively
- are often exposed to chemicals or tobacco smoke
- sleep with your eyes partly open
In the most severe cases, eye inflammation could lead to scars on the cornea – but that’s unusual. And, don’t worry, this condition very rarely leads to permanent vision loss.
And while eye drops may seem like the obvious solution, they’re not. In fact, they could make your condition worse, even the ones that are just “artificial tears.” As for eye doctors, treatments they may offer include surgery, a long-term prescription for cyclosporine (an anti-inflammatory drug), or prescription corticosteroid eye drops – but all of those come with some risks and side effects.
There is another way to go, though, a safe, natural way to get your tears flowing again, in the perfect consistency. All it takes is a few simple nutrients.
First on the list: omega 3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA. Studies show that taking 500 mg of omega 3s daily can help relieve dry eye symptoms.
Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to dry eyes. And though there aren’t any studies out yet recommending specific dosing for dry eyes, most people can safely take 2,000IU of vitamin D3 daily.
Antioxidants may also play a key role in easing dry eyes. Strong eye-preserving antioxidant sources include vitamins A, C, and E, maqui berries, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, and raw almonds.
Along with those nutrients, make sure to drink plenty of water. And in no time at all, those gritty, burning sensations will be gone.
Bhargava R, Kumar P, Kumar M, Mehra N, Mishra A. A randomized controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in dry eye syndrome. International Journal of Ophthalmology. 2013;6(6):811-816.
Kangari H, et al., Short-term consumption of oral omega-3 and dry eye syndrome. Ophthalmology. 2013 Nov;120(11):2191-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2013.04.006. Epub 2013 May 1.
Bhargava R1, Kumar P2, Phogat H3, Kaur A3, Kumar M4. Oral omega-3 fatty acids treatment in computer vision syndrome related dry eye. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2015 Jun;38(3):206-10. doi: 10.1016/j.clae.2015.01.007. Epub 2015 Feb 16.
Galbis-Estrada C, et al., A metabolomic approach to dry eye disorders. The role of oral supplements with antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids. Mol Vis. 2015 May 11;21:555-67. eCollection 2015.