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Vitamins for Dry Eyes: Omega-3s & More

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If you often experience dry, scratchy eyes or your vision feels blurry and uncomfortable, even if you’re wearing glasses or contacts, you’re not alone—30% of Canadians suffer from dry eye symptoms.

Your optometrist can examine your eyes and offer treatments to find relief. Still, there’s more you can do to protect your vision, starting with how you eat. Keeping your diet balanced with omega-3s and vitamins A, D, and C is a great way to support healthy tears and help keep your eyes hydrated.

What Is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eyes affect a significant portion of Canadians. While it’s a relatively common issue, many people may need help understanding why it occurs. In essence, dry eyes usually stem from either a reduction in tear production or tears evaporating too quickly.

Tears are more than just simple drops of water that moisten your eyes when you cry—they play a crucial role in safeguarding your eyes from environmental factors, so they must be healthy and well-balanced to fulfill their purpose.

When something disrupts this delicate balance, a range of uncomfortable symptoms can emerge, including:

  • Irritation
  • Redness
  • Burning or scratchy sensation
  • The feeling of something in your eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Mucus discharge
  • Excessive tearing (Paradoxically, your eyes might produce more tears in an attempt to compensate for perceived dryness)

Eating for Eye Health

A significant portion of the vitamins our bodies need comes from our food. So, if your diet is well-balanced and healthy, you’re probably getting the right amount of vitamins your body requires daily. But, there might be situations where you need to get more of a specific vitamin from your diet, and that’s when supplements can step in to fill the gap.

However, it’s essential to remember that it’s possible to overdo it, even with something as beneficial as vitamins. If you’re already meeting your body’s needs for a particular nutrient and start taking additional supplements, it won’t magically solve your dry eye problem. In fact, it could have adverse effects on your health.

So, before you rush to the supplement aisle, consult with your doctor. They can help determine whether supplements are necessary for your specific situation and, if so, recommend the right type and dosage. It’s always better to be safe and informed when it comes to your health.

Omega-3s for Dry Eyes

When it comes to fats, they can be categorized as either “good” or “bad,” and omega-3s fall into the group of “good” fats. This type of fat is polyunsaturated and is generally considered beneficial for your health.

Research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids have the potential to reduce inflammation. Inflammation can play a dual role in dry eyes—it can either be a symptom or a contributing cause, especially when it affects the eyelids.

The eyelids contain tiny meibomian glands responsible for secreting oil that prevents your tears from evaporating too quickly. In cases of inflammation, these glands might struggle to release their oil properly. Omega-3s seem to have a positive impact on these glands’ function.

While omega-3 supplements are commonly available, you can also source this essential fatty acid from various foods. Consider adding the following items that pack a punch of omega-3 goodness to your meals:

  • Cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Plant oils like flaxseed, soybean, and canola, which can be used in salad dressings
A variety of eye-healthy foods sitting out on a table, including salmon, blueberries, nuts, spinach, dried apricots, eggs, carrots and oils.

Vitamin A for Dry Eyes

Vitamin A plays a crucial role in maintaining the overall health of your eyes. It’s a powerful antioxidant that contributes to various aspects of eye function. For instance, vitamin A is essential for allowing us to see colours and function in low-light conditions. Moreover, its antioxidant properties can be instrumental in reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a condition that affects central vision.

But here’s a connection you might not be aware of—Vitamin A is also vital for a healthy cornea. If you don’t have enough of this vitamin in your system, it can lead to a condition called xerophthalmia, where your eyes and tear ducts can dry out.

To help you get enough vitamin A in your diet, consider including these foods rich in this essential nutrient:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Red pepper

Vitamin C for Dry Eyes

Vitamin C, often associated with its immune-boosting properties, has a more extended resume than you might think. Some studies have suggested that Vitamin C could reduce the progression of cataracts.

But that’s not all—Vitamin C, being an antioxidant, can also positively impact tear production and help keep your eyes moisturized.

To up your vitamin C intake, consider adding these foods to your diet:

  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Raw spinach
  • Tomatoes

Vitamin D for Dry Eyes

We get most of our vitamin D through sunlight exposure. However, in Canada, many individuals need more daily vitamin D intake, leading them to turn to supplements to bridge the gap.

Recent studies have hinted at the potential of vitamin D in reducing inflammation on the eye’s surface. Moreover, a vitamin D deficiency can decrease tear production, which can be particularly problematic for individuals who already produce fewer tears.

While you can try to up your vitamin D dose by getting outside more, regrettably, it’s not naturally abundant in most foods. However, you can still find some vitamin D-fortified options such as milk or cereal. Some foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D include:

  • Tuna
  • Egg yolks
  • Salmon

Dry Eye Care Around the Corner

Dry eyes are frustrating; it’s as simple as that. But they don’t have to overtake your life. We’d happily see you in our dry eye clinic at Henderson Vision Centre. Our friendly team can examine the volume and quality of your tears to put you on the road to comfortable sight.

If you’re in need of healthy tips to help keep dry eyes at bay, then request an appointment today!

Written by Dr. Melina Chow

Dr. Chow received her Doctor of Optometry from the University of Waterloo in 2005. She has been an integral part of the Henderson Vision team for over 15 years, moving back to her hometown immediately upon graduating from university. When she isn’t at the clinic, Dr. Chow runs circles trying to keep up with her two energetic boys. Once she’s had enough cardio, she enjoys baking and planning her next vacation.
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