Dry Eyes Improve with Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Study

rubbing dry eyesA strong study in the International Journal of Ophthalmology found that omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced dry eyes. Dry eye syndrome is becoming more prevalent in the West from extended close-up work on computers and phone screens. The condition can also be caused by an autoimmune disorder; it can accompany menopause; and it can have other causes. Symptoms include burning, dryness, irritation, a feeling of grit, and difficulty reading for extended periods.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in highest quantity in flax seeds, certain types of fish, chia seeds and walnuts. The human body cannot manufacture the omega-3 fatty acids DHA, ALA ((alpha-linolenic acid), and EPA. Therefore, we must ingest them in our diet or from supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for infant eye and brain development;. They also reduce triglycerides and may reduce symptoms of arthritis, depression, and Macular Degeneration.

The study1 supplemented DHA (175 mg/day) and EPA (325 mg/day). This research met the criteria of a solid scientific study: large group (254), placebo-controlled, double-blind, prospective, interventional, randomized and peer-reviewed. Authors of the study expressed concern that there is no gold standard for measuring dry eye. They checked the study subjects each month of the study for:

  • slit lamp examination
  • corrected distance visual acuity (CDVA)
  • questionnaire of symptoms
  • routine tear function tests (such as Schirmer I test, tear film break-up time (TBUT), Rose Bengal staining and conjunctival impression cytology)

After three months, the study found that 65% of patients who took the omega-3 fatty acids improved. Only 33% of the control group had significant improvement in symptoms. The authors noted that patients with blepharitis and meibomian gland disease had the best results.

Editor’s Note: Obtaining enough of these nutrients in the diet is challenging. See our page on food sources of omega-3’s. Heavy metal pollution of fish requires we limit our intake. The higher-quality fish oil supplements have been cleaned of mercury contamination,, and often use fish at the low end of the food spectrum such as krill, sardines and mackerel which require minimal cleansing regarding possible toxins. Look on the product packing to make sure. We recommend 1500mg-3000mg/daily for most adults.

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  1. International Journal of Ophthalmology. 2013; 6(6): 811–816. Published online 2013 Dec 18. doi: 10.3980/j.issn.2222-3959.2013.06.13 PMCID: PMC3874521. “A randomized controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in dry eye syndrome” by Rahul Bhargava, Prachi Kumar, Manjushrii Kumar, Namrata Mehra, and Anurag Mishra