Dry Eye Vitamins

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Associated with stinging, itchy and watery eyes, Dry Eye Syndrome is a common eye health concern. According to the National Eye Institute, dry eye affects tens of millions Americans, including five million adults over the age of 50. The issue appears to increase with age, and is more prevalent in women than men. While most everyone experiences fleeting dry eye symptoms from time to time, chronic symptoms are a more serious quality of life issue that may lead to the "syndrome" diagnosis. 

The syndrome may dry out all three layers of the eye's tear film, which includes an inner mucus layer, middle water layer, and surface oil layer. If any tear film layer is compromised, dry eye symptoms may follow. The oil layer, which seals the eye and helps it retain moisture, may be especially vulnerable to dryness due to its exposure to the elements -- which may cause existing eye moisture to evaporate faster than it can be replenished. 

What Causes Dry Eye?
Health issues linked with dry eye syndrome include Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that leads todry eyes and dry mouth; chronic inflammation, especially when associated with the tear glands; and hormonal changes related to thyroid problems, menopause and pregnancy. 

Exposure to harsh winds, arid environments, and some indoor heating and cooling systems may degrade the eye's tear film, leading to dry eye symptoms. Symptoms may also be triggered by allergies or irritants like dust or grit entering the eye. Some pharmaceutical drugs, notably decongestants and antihistamines, are sometimes accompanied by eye dryness as a side effect.

Finally, failure to blink enough may dry out the eyes. Computer Vision Syndrome, in which computer users stare at monitors for extended periods of time without blinking, often results in stinging, burning and other dry eye symptoms. Watching television and playing video games may have a similar effect, distracting the viewer so that they forget to blink until the eye's natural protective tear film has dried out.

How To Hydrate Dry Eyes
Lubricating eye drops, gels and ointments are among the most popular treatments for re-hydrating dry eyes. While drops supply near-instant relief, those that contain preservatives may sensitize the eyes, paradoxically leading to symptoms of irritation and dryness. Because of this issue, those who wish to use eye drops, gels and ointments are advised to consider preservative-free formulations. Ophthalmologists may also offer prescription-strength eye drops and anti-inflammatory drugs in extreme dry eye cases.

Punctal plugs made of soft acrylic are another dry eye treatment. In an in-office procedure performed by an eye doctor, the soft plugs are inserted into the eye's tear drainage channels to help retain moisture and reinforce the tear film. Though it may sound daunting, this procedure is simple, painless and completely reversible.

Dry eye vitamins are a natural, non-invasive nutritional therapy designed to hydrate eyes from the inside out. These products often address the inflammation that is frequently implicated in dry eye cases, while nutritionally stabilizing the tear film that helps the eyes to lock in and sustain moisture. Dry eye vitamins commonly found in supplements may include:

Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fish oil and flaxseed and borage oils, omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are among the most evidence-backed inflammation modulators available in supplement form. Omega-3s are believed to soothe inflamed tear glands and optimize their function, potentially restoring eye moisture and comfort. 

Curcumin: Sourced from the Ayurvedic wellness root turmeric, curcumin supplies inflammation-modulating activity that may complement Omega-3s in some formulas.

Phospholipids: Phospholipids are molecules that are found in all cell membranes in the human body. In theory, these compounds appear to support cell membranes in a way that helps bond all three tear film layers, strengthening their integrity  and enhancing tear film stability. Phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylcholine are types of phospholipids that may be found in dry eye nutritional formulas.

Phytosterols: This class of natural plant compounds commonly found in nuts and vegetable oils bring soothing, inflammation-modulating properties to the eyes and tear ducts. Phytosterols are noted for their support of the eye's outer tear film layer: They promote the oily coating that helps to retain eye moisture.

Mucins: These gel-like, "sticky" protein compounds are naturally present in the eye's inner tear film layer, as well as its surface layer, where they strengthen tear film integrity and reinforce the eye's natural barrier to the elements. Tear film evaporation has been suggested to influence mucin levels. Dry eye vitamins that include mucins may help to replenish this key tear film component to ideal levels.

While dry eye is a frustrating vision health issues for millions, sufferers may find comfort in knowing there are many different therapies available that help to soothe away dryness and restore healthy hydration to eyes.