What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome (also known as dry eye, dysfunctional tear syndrome, lacrimal keratoconjunctivitis, and evaporative tear deficiency) occurs when the eyes don't produce enough to tears to stay properly lubricated. In some cases, sufficient tears are produced, but the tears are of poor quality and evaporate too rapidly.
Tears play a key role in promoting clear vision, warding off infection, and keeping the front surface of the eye healthy. When left untreated, dry eye syndrome can lead to pain, damage to the cornea, and some loss of vision.
Causes of Dry Eye
Although dry eye syndrome is most prevalent among adults over age 65, the condition affects people of all ages. Here are some common causes:
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Symptoms of dry eye can include:
Standard treatments for dry eye syndrome include the use of anti-inflammatory medication, devices that plug the holes where tears drain from the eye, and surgery to permanently close the eye's drainage holes. However, using over-the-counter artificial tears, gels, or ointments is typically recommended as the first line of treatment for dry eye syndrome.
Natural Remedies for Dry Eye
To date, the use of complementary and alternative medicine in treatment of dry eye syndrome has not been extensively studied. However, preliminary research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids show promise as a natural approach to dry eye relief.
In a 2009 study, for instance, scientists found that feeding rats a diet containing a combination of gamma-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid led to a significant reduction in dry eye symptoms. In an earlier study on mice, topical application of the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid was shown to reverse the signs of dry eye syndrome (as well as the inflammatory changes characteristic of the condition).
Found in oily fish (such as salmon and mackerel), flaxseed, and chia seeds, omega-3 fatty acids can also be consumed in supplement form.
Other Tips to Get Relief
The following strategies may help reduce dry eye symptoms:
Rashid S, Jin Y, Ecoiffier T, Barabino S, Schaumberg DA, Dana MR. "Topical omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for treatment of dry eye." Archives of Ophthalmology 2008 126(2):219-25.
Viau S, Maire MA, Pasquis B, Grégoire S, Acar N, Bron AM, Bretillon L, Creuzot-Garcher CP, Joffre C. "Efficacy of a 2-month dietary supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids in dry eye induced by scopolamine in a rat model." Graefe's Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology 2009 247(8):1039-50.