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Eyes | Nutrients May Ease Dry Eye
Closeup of woman's eyes

Black currant seed oil and fish oil supplements significantly improved dry eye symptoms.

Nutrients May Ease Dry Eye

Nutrients that ease inflammation may bring relief to people who suffer from an uncomfortable condition known as dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca). A study in Cornea found that people with chronic dry eye who took a gamma-linolenic acid and fish oil supplement experienced less inflammation and a welcome relief from irritating symptoms.

Healthy oils may relieve inflammation

In this study, 38 postmenopausal women with moderate to severe dry eye were randomly assigned to: an oral supplement containing black currant seed oil (a source of gamma-linolenic acid), fish oil, and vitamins C and E; or an oral placebo (sunflower oil), for six months. Participants filled out questionnaires about their symptoms and had eye examinations.

Results showed that compared with placebo and after 24 weeks of treatment, the supplement group experienced a significant improvement in symptoms, and decreased inflammation and improved smoothness of the cornea (a transparent layer covering the eye).

The study authors comment, “Nutritional supplementation with black currant seed oil (GLA) and fish oil should be considered in the treatment of tear dysfunction to decrease irritation symptoms and prevent exacerbations.”

Why dry eye?

The experience of dry eyes can be very unpleasant leading to symptoms such as pain, irritation, and burning, and can interfere with a person’s vision. For some, this may be a fleeting experience experienced at high altitudes or in dry climates, but for others this can become a chronic condition. When the condition becomes chronic it can cause inflammation of the cornea and can damage the eye.

The link between nutrients and dry eye. Risk factors for developing dry eye includes older age, being a woman, wearing contacts, smoking, dry environments, certain medical conditions, and now dietary factors are being included in the potential causes, according to the study authors.

Prior research has shown that symptoms, clinical signs, and blood tests that measure inflammation improved in people with dry eye who took supplements containing linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid alone, or combined with fish oil, according to the study authors. Both gamma-linolenic acid and fish oil may help by reducing inflammation, and as the authors point out, these nutrients have also been shown to reduce pain in people who have chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Talk with a doctor. If you suffer from dry eyes or eye irritation, see a doctor and talk with him or her about the cause and your treatment options. Before taking supplements, talk with a doctor about the risks and benefits.

(Cornea 2013;0:1–8 doi: 10.1097/ICO.0b013e318299549c)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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