Dry eye syndrome occurs when the tears glands in the eyes do not produce enough fluid, or if the tears vanish too quickly. Researchers are exploring the possibilities of using dietary measures or vitamin supplements to treat dry eye.

Research is in its early days but may highlight options for symptom relief that can reduce discomfort and improve quality of life.

It is best to obtain vitamins from the diet alone, but supplements are available to top up amounts for people who may not consume enough or who have a natural deficiency.

Read on to find out more about the link between eye health and vitamins and learn about some other treatment tips

There is limited scientific evidence that vitamin supplementation helps treat dry eyes and insufficient evidence to recommend the routine use of commercially available supplements in dry eye syndrome.

However, some observational studies show the possible importance of diet helping with dry eyes.

People should remain skeptical about any vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements that claim to treat dry eye syndrome.

The following vitamins might make a difference to dry eyes, but research is on-going. People should consult a doctor before attempting to use supplements for the treatment of dry eyes.

Vitamin A

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Researchers have tried adding vitamin A to eye drops for dry eyes, but there is not enough evidence to prove that this is useful, and it may not be safe.

Vitamin-A deficiency has links to dry eye.

Food deprivation is the primary cause of a vitamin-A deficiency, which occurs mainly in poor communities. In some areas of the world, up to 50 percent of preschool children do not get enough vitamin A.

People can have a vitamin-A deficiency if an underlying condition prevents the bowel from absorbing nutrients, such as diseases of the digestive system, including Crohn's disease and chronic pancreatitis.

A 2009 study compared vitamin-A eye drops to prescription eye drops for dry eye. Researchers found them to provide similar levels of symptom relief.

Possible side effects

However, vitamin A can sometimes have an adverse effect on health. Discuss the risks and benefits of any vitamin-A supplementation with a doctor.

The by-products of vitamin A could potentially speed up vision loss and retinal degeneration in people with recessive Stargardt's disease, cone-rod dystrophy, and other retinal conditions caused by certain genetic variations. This is a rare condition that affects about 1 in every 9000 people.

Since vitamin A is stored in the fat cells, it is possible to take too much vitamin A in supplement form, although it is unusual to take in excess vitamin A from dietary sources. Most experts advise a maximum vitamin-A supplement dose of 10,000 IU per day.

Excessive vitamin-A intake might trigger side effects involving the stomach and nerves, such as stomach and head pain, nausea, and irritability. Heavy use of vitamin A can make symptoms more intense and also lead to the development of blurred vision.

Vitamin D

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Fish oil and vitamin D supplements may help with dry eyes, but more evidence is needed to confirm this.

Early research has shown that vitamin D could have an association with dry eyes. Dry eye and impaired tear function are occasional symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D might play a role in protecting against the development of dry eyes by improving factors linked to the coating of tears that cover the front of the eye. It may also help reduce inflammation on the surface of the eye.

The research suggests that vitamin D supplements may help with dry eye symptoms, according to this small study from 2015. However, researchers must investigate further to provide significant evidence.

Possible side effects

Complications of taking too many vitamin D supplements are rare but can be serious. An excess of vitamin D can cause a build-up of calcium in the blood. This can cause poor appetite, nausea, and vomiting, as well as frequent urination, kidney problems, and weakness in some cases.

The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin A is 600 IU per day for adults although many are deficient in Vitamin D and need to take higher dosages. People should talk with their doctor about the appropriate intake of Vitamin D.

Omega-3: Does it really work?

Guidelines by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) advise that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in the treatment of dry eye.

However, not enough evidence is available to confirm the effectiveness of any particular omega-3 fatty acid supplement.

Links between vitamins and minerals and eye health are emerging, but there are currently no proven relationships, and healthcare professionals require more evidence before prescribing vitamins alone as a treatment for dry eye.

Some research has found that supplements might be beneficial for seniors with poor dietary intake of vitamins due to difficulties with.

A large study called AREDS showed that vitamins C, and E, plant compounds lutein and zeaxanthin, and the minerals zinc and copper may help prevent certain eye conditions from developing, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is a condition in which the macula loses vision. The macula is part of the eye that controls central vision.

Some studies also show that taking certain vitamins and minerals, including thiamin, could slow down the development of cloudy areas that form in the lens of the eye, known as cataracts.

In most cases of dry eye, over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops will help symptoms. These drops may only need to be used once or several times a day.

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A doctor can check for dry eyes and suggest a suitable remedy.

A doctor might prescribe the following treatments for dry eyes:

  • drugs to reduce inflammation or antibiotics
  • prescription eye drops or corticosteroids
  • dissolving eye inserts that help lubricate the eye
  • drugs to stimulate tears
  • blood serum drops, made from the individual's own blood contents

If eye drops and medications are not successful in resolving symptoms, therapies and surgeries are available as a last resort.

Therapeutic options for the treatment of dry eyes include:

  • partially or completely closing tear ducts
  • wearing special contact lenses
  • unblocking oil glands
  • light therapy and eyelid massage

Take the following steps at home to help dry eye syndrome:

  • Use artificial tears, gels, and ointments.
  • Wear close-fitting glasses or sunglasses. This slows the rate of evaporation from the surface of the eye.
  • Keep the eyes protected from wind, hot air, smoke, and dust.
  • Installing an air cleaner indoors to filter dust particles, as well as a humidifier to add moisture to the air indoors.
  • Allow the eyes to rest during and after performing tasks that require using eyes for long periods, such as using a computer for work.
  • Maintain eye hygiene by washing the closed eyes with a warm, wet, and clean cloth.
  • Use warm compresses on the eyes to help the glands that make tears work better.

Although further study is necessary, some alternative medicine approaches include castor oil eye drops, to reduce tear evaporation, and acupuncture.

Before using any form of alternative medicine, people with dry eyes should discuss the risks and benefits with a doctor.

There are many available treatments for dry eye syndrome. Studies are ongoing concerning potential vitamins to treat dry eyes.

For now, it is best to get advice from a doctor and use conventional treatments.

Q:

Could I go blind from dry eye?

A:

It is extremely rare for dry eye to cause blindness, but it can cause discomfort and worsen symptoms of other eye conditions. There are many treatments for dry eyes that can bring relief for most people, although many therapies require continuous upkeep to control symptoms.

Ann Marie Griff, OD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.