Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dry Eye and Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids

Dry eye is a chronic condition that occurs when the tears which naturally lubricate the ocular surface are either deficient in quantity or quality. A reduced tear film or a tear film that evaporates too quickly will result in irritated red eyes that may over water. The tear film aids the focusing of light so a poor tear film may result in blurred or variable vision. The tear film also contains proteins and enzymes that kill microbes helping to ward off infection. A compromised tear film creates an environment more prone to infection. The National eye institute of the National institutes of health states that "nearly five million Americans 50 years of age and older are estimated to have dry eye." Although new medications are available to treat this condition many of my patients over age 50 loathe to add anything new to the growing list of medications they take on a regular basis. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, due to their anti- inflammatory properties, are showing promise in the long term treatment of chronic dry eye.

Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids can be found naturally in seafood such as salmon and anchovies. They may also be found in flax seed and walnuts. Vitamin supplements are also available. We recommend at least 2500 mg of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids a day. Patients trying this more natural approach to dry eye therapy should commit to 3 months of consistent treatment before evaluating the efficacy of this treatment for them. Even when topical or oral medications are needed in the short term to ameliorate the symptoms of severe dry eye, omega 3 and 6 supplements may be useful in the long term management to reduce the risk of future exacerbations.

Guest Blogger: Shari E. Strier, O.D., Optometrist with the Baltimore Washington Eye Center