Written by Hannah NicholsReviewed by Alana Biggers, MD, MPH
Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that occurs when the eyes do not make enough tears, or if the tears vanish too quickly. There are many treatments for dry eyes. Can vitamins help prevent or treat dry eyes? We find out.
If an individual has a healthy balanced diet, they should be able to get all thevitamins and minerals they need from their diet. However, some people may need to take a supplement if advised by their doctor.
Eye health and vitamins
Links between vitamins and minerals and eye health are emerging, but there are currently no clear answers, and more research is needed.
Some research has found that supplements might be beneficial in seniors with poor dietary intake of vitamins due to digestion difficulties.
In these cases, dietaryantioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, and the mineral zinc may help prevent conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) from developing. AMD is a condition where vision is lost in the macular, which is the part of the eye that controls central vision.
Some studies also show that taking certain vitamins and minerals, including thiamine (vitamin B1), could protect an individual from developing cataracts, cloudy areas that form in the lens of the eye.
Vitamins obtained through foods are thought to be safe and positive to health. However, there are circumstances where vitamins can have a negative effect.
What vitamins are good for dry eye syndrome?
There is limited evidence that vitamin supplementation helps treat dry eyes andinsufficient evidence to recommend the routine use of commercially available supplements in dry eye syndrome. People should be skeptical about any vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements that claim to treat dry eye syndrome.
The following vitamins might make a difference to dry eyes, but research is ongoing. People should consult a doctor before attempting to use supplements for the treatment of dry eyes.
Vitamin A deficiency is linked to dry eye. Vitamin A deficiency is usually caused by food deprivation and happens mainly in poor communities. In some areas of the world, up to 50 percent of preschool children are deficient in vitamin A.
People can also be deficient in vitamin A if they have a condition that prevents the bowel from absorbing nutrients from foods, such as a disease that affects the digestive system.
Vitamin A eye drops have been shown just as useful for the treatment of dry eyes as prescription eye drops.
However, Vitamin A can sometimes have an adverse effect a person’s health. Supplementation with this vitamin should first be discussed with a doctor, and the risks and benefits discussed.
Vitamin A could potentially speed up vision loss and retinal degeneration in people with recessive Stargardt’s disease, cone-rod dystrophy, and other retinal conditions caused by certain genetic variations.
Excessive vitamin A intake is also known to trigger stomach and nerve side effects, such as stomach and head pain, nausea, and irritability. These symptoms could be made worse by heavy use of vitamin A and lead to the development of blurred vision.
Vitamin D might play a protective role in the development of dry eyes by improving factors that are linked to the protective coating of tears that cover the front of our eyes. It may also help reduce inflammation of the eye surface.
The research suggests that vitamin D supplements may help with dry eye symptoms, such as eye discomfort and fatigue, redness, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. Further research is needed to prove this, however.
Complications of taking too many vitamin D supplements are rare but can be potentially serious. Too many vitamin D supplements can cause a buildup of calcium in the blood. This can cause poor appetite, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, it may lead to frequent urination, kidney problems, and weakness.
Guidelines by the American Academy of Ophthalmology say that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in the treatment of dry eye. However, there is not enough evidence to confirm the effectiveness of any particular formulation of omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) suggest that supplements of omega-3 or dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids may decrease symptoms of irritation in people with dry eye.
The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, in particular, may help. These types of omega-3 are found in:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are safe as long as individuals do not take in more than 3 grams per day from food and supplements.
For people who already have bleeding disorders, taking too much omega-3 may lead to an increased risk of bleeding. Omega-3 may affect blood levels, which may have consequences for people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and may also cause low blood pressure.
It is important to get advice from a doctor before taking omega-3 supplements for dry eye syndrome.
Treatments for dry eye syndrome
In most cases of dry eye, over-the-counter eye drops will help treat symptoms. These drops may only need to be used once or several times a day.
Medications that are prescribed by a doctor for dry eyes include:
- Drugs to reduce inflammation orantibiotics
- Prescription eye drops or corticosteroids
- Dissolving eye inserts to lubricate the eye
- Drugs to stimulate tears
- Autologous blood serum drops
Procedures that might be used for the treatment of dry eyes include:
- Partially or completely closing tear ducts
- Wearing specialist contact lenses
- Unblocking oil glands
- Light therapy and eyelid massage
Other home remedies or lifestyle changes for dry eye syndrome
Some actions can be taken at home to help dry eye syndrome. These include:
- Using artificial tears, gels, gel inserts, and ointments
- Wearing glasses or sunglasses that fit close to the face to slow the rate of evaporation from the surface of the eye
- Keeping eyes protected from the wind, hot air, smoke, and dust
- Installing an air cleaner indoors to filter dust particles
- Installing a humidifier to add moisture to the air indoors
- Avoiding dry conditions
- Allowing the eyes to rest when performing tasks that require using eyes for long periods
- Maintaining good eye hygiene with a warm, wet, and clean cloth
Although further study is needed, some alternative medicine approaches include:
- Castor oil eye drops to reduce tear evaporation
Before using any form of alternative medicine, people with dry eyes should discuss the risks and benefits with a doctor.
There are many available treatments for dry eye syndrome. Studies are ongoing concerning potential vitamins to treat dry eyes. However, for now, getting advice from a doctor and using conventional treatments is recommended.