Fish Oil and Dry Eye

March 15, 2020

In Chicago, we don’t have Florida-esque humidity, but we have our share of sticky, humid days, especially in the summertime. So, it may seem odd that a person here could develop dry eye. Truth is, the humidity doesn’t really make a difference with this eye condition, where the person’s eyes are not sufficiently lubricated. While at Millennium Park we treat dry eye with simple solutions such as artificial tears or more complex options such as punctual plugs inserted to limit tear drainage, there is growing evidence that dry eye can be successfully managed with fish oil.

What causes dry eye?

A person can develop dry eye for a number of different reasons. It can simply be a case of the tear ducts not producing a sufficient number of tears. Or the cause can be a chemical imbalance in the tears themselves. Natural tears require a particular chemical balance to lubricate the eyes efficiently. Sometimes, your eyes are actually overproducing tears due to the irritation in your eyes, but the tears aren’t the right consistency to help.

As we get older, we’re more prone to dry eye. It also results from taking certain medications, certain medical conditions, or injury. Women tend to get dry eye more than men due to the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy and menopause. Oral contraceptives can also lead to inconsistent tear ingredients.

These are other causes of dry eye:

  • Antihistamines, decongestants, and blood pressure medications
  • Environmental conditions such as smoke, wind, and excessive sun
  • Eye injury
  • Long-term contact lens use
  • Eye or eyelid surgery
  • Conjunctivitis or keratitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid disease

Fish oil

It’s only been over the past few years that fish oil has been looked at as a treatment for dry eye. Fish oil contains two omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA), which have been shown to provide various health benefits. You can now add treatment of dry eye to those benefits.

It appears that these fatty acids can improve the eye’s oil film that’s produced by the small glands on the edge of the eyelid, the meibomian glands. This oil helps keep your tears from evaporating too quickly from your eye, which leads to dry eye.

Research studies found improvements in dry eye as a side benefit of sorts, usually when looking at other benefits of fish oil. As a supplement, the studies have advocated 180 milligrams of EHA and 120 milligrams of DHA taken twice daily. Higher doses of fish oil supplements have been shown to have some harmful side effects.

Fish oil looks to be a promising option for treating dry eye. If you have questions about the condition or about adding fish oil to treat it, please give us a call at Millennium Eye Center, (312) 996-2020.


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