Are you tired of constantly feeling like you have sand in your eyes? Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that affects many women as they age, and fortunately vitamins and supplements can help!
While there are many causes of dry eye syndrome, such as hormonal changes, medication use, and environmental factors, one thing is certain – it’s no fun!
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition that occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly. This can lead to dryness, irritation, and a gritty feeling in your eyes.
The lacrimal gland in your eye is responsible for tear production. When they are not functioning properly, you may experience dry eyes.
If your tears evaporate too quickly, it is likely caused by malfunctioning meibomian glands. These glands located in your eyelids make the outer, greasy layer of tears that keeps the tears from evaporating too easily and protects the surface of the eye.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome
The symptoms of dry eye can vary from person to person, but some of the most common symptoms include:
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
Aging. As we age, our tear production tends to decrease, making dry eye more common in older adults.
Medical conditions. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause dry eye.
Medications. Some medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and antidepressants can reduce tear production and cause dry eye.
Environmental factors. Dry or windy environments, air conditioning, and heating can cause tears to evaporate more quickly and lead to dry eye.
Prolonged screen time. Staring at computer, smartphone, or tablet screens for long periods can cause you to blink less frequently, leading to dry eye.
Contact lenses. Wearing contact lenses can contribute to dry eye by reducing oxygen flow to the cornea and increasing tear evaporation.
Hormonal changes. Changes in hormone levels, such as during menopause, can cause dry eye.
If left untreated, dry eye syndrome can lead to more serious problems like corneal ulcers, infections, and even vision loss. Be sure to visit your eye doctor if symptoms persist.
Top 7 Nutritional Supplements for Dry Eye Syndrome
While it’s always better to get your vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet, dietary supplements may provide an insurance policy for those times when getting the recommended dose of certain nutrients is a challenge.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These essential fatty acids are critical for eye health and can help reduce inflammation, which is a common cause of dry eye syndrome. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids that promote eye health.
An analysis of 17 clinical studies found that omega-3 supplementation can significantly improve dry eye symptoms (1).
Good sources of omega-3s include fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and anchovies, as well as walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. If you’re not getting enough omega-3s in your diet, consider taking fish oil or plant-based omega-3 supplements.
This sunshine vitamin is important for overall health, but it may also play a role in eye health. A review of 14 clinical trials found that people with vitamin D deficiency are more likely to have dry eye syndrome (2).
The best way to get vitamin D is through moderate sun exposure (don’t forget sunscreen!), but you can also get it from foods like fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified dairy products. If you’re not getting enough vitamin D from your diet or sunlight, you may consider taking vitamin D supplements.
Pro-tip: It is especially important to get your vitamin D levels tested and consult with a healthcare provider to determine the proper vitamin D supplementation dosage for you.
This vitamin is essential for eye health and can help improve tear quality and production. Consuming adequate amounts of vitamin A has been shown to protect against dry eye syndrome (3).
Vitamin A is found in foods like liver (beef, chicken, pork) and dairy products. It is also plentiful in cod liver oil supplements. However, too much vitamin A can be toxic, so it’s best to get it from food rather than supplements.
Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A. Beta-carotene has antioxidant properties that help protect the eyes from free radicals that may cause age-related diseases, including dry eye.
Beta-carotene is found in sweet potatoes, carrots, and leafy vegetables. Unlike the pre-formed version of vitamin A, beta-carotene is not likely to be toxic even in larger doses. It may, however, give your skin a slightly orange tone when consumed in excess!
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are like a dynamic duo that work together to protect your eyes from harmful UV radiation and oxidative stress. These two mighty nutrients are related to beta- carotene. They absorb blue light and reduce glare, which can reduce eye strain and fatigue (4,5).
When it comes to dry eye syndrome, these two nutrients help to improve the quality and quantity of tears that your eyes produce. They also reduce inflammation in the eye and improve overall eye health, which can make a big difference in how your eyes feel.
Red pepper and corn are the best sources of both lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein is also found in green leafy vegetables, pistachios, and egg yolks. Zeaxanthin is more difficult to get through diet than lutein because the only really good sources are red peppers and corn.
Pro-tip: Zeaxanthin and lutein are excellent options for supplementation because they are fairly difficult to consume through diet and they protect your eyes against macular degeneration as well as dry eye syndrome.
This antioxidant vitamin can help reduce inflammation and improve eye health. People with higher levels of vitamin C in their diets are less likely to develop dry eye syndrome (6).
Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, dark leafy greens, and bell peppers.
This mineral is important for overall health, but it may also play a role in eye health. Magnesium helps make sure that your cornea, lens, and retina are working properly and stay in good shape (7).
Magnesium is found in foods like leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains. If you’re not regularly consuming magnesium-rich foods, consider taking a supplement.
Pro-tip: If you opt for a supplement, magnesium glycinate, citrate, and L-threonate are better absorbed than magnesium oxide or magnesium sulfate (8).
Flaxseed oil, which is derived from the seeds of the flax plant, contains high levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Supplementation with 1-2 grams of flaxseed oil per day for six months resulted in a significant improvement in dry eye symptoms and reduced inflammation in the eyes (9).
So there you have it – the top recommendations for vitamins and supplements to help alleviate dry eye syndrome. Remember, it’s always best to get your vitamins and minerals from food whenever possible, but supplements can be a helpful addition to your diet.
If you’re experiencing persistent dry eye symptoms, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to rule out any underlying conditions.
Stay fabulous and keep those healthy eyes sparkling!
Pam is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Master’s of Public Health and a Certificate in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. Passionate about the science of health and nutrition, she loves to share her knowledge to help others live healthy, vibrant lives. When not working, Pam can be found hiking, traveling, and enjoying great-tasting, nutritious food.