Dry eye disorders are common as we age and usually
show up as gritty sore eyes that worsen as the day progresses.
Closed eyelids as we sleep offers a recovery period but next day the
whole annoying cycle starts over again.
Current treatments are usually targeted at relieving symptoms of
irritation with extra lubrication or punctal plugs that decrease
Recently though our understanding of dry eye problems has
improved dramatically. Better understanding of dry eyes problems
helps lead to better diagnosis and newer treatment options that
either prevent difficulties or reduce discomfort.
Age inevitably produces a gradual decline in our tear function.
And there are two clear mechanisms involved. The first is decreased
tear production from the primary lacrimal glands. This can happen
because of autoimmune problems like arthritis or problems like
diabetes which decrease eye sensitivity.
The second is increased tear evaporation with reduced function of
some of the glands in the lids called meibomium glands. Age and
recurrent inflammatory conditions reduce the function of these
glands which produce an essential "oily" layer. This layer sits on
top of tears and slows tear evaporation. Reducing this layer causes
tears to evaporate quickly causing the gritty dry eyes and the
intermittent blurry vision usually seen.
In 2003 a scientific study showed that high dietary intake of the
Omega-3 group of essential oils decreased the risk of developing dry
eye disease. It has been known for quite some time that the American
diet is top heavy in Omega-6 oils and lacking in Omega-3 oils. This
study showed that improving the amount of Omega-3 essential oils
seems to address an imbalance and decreases the likelihood of
developing dry eyes.
What mechanism helps omega-3 essential oils aid dry eyes? The
heart of it seems to be the known fact that the omega-3 group of
oils decreases inflammation in conditions such as rheumatoid
arthritis. It appears that they also help decrease inflammatory
conditions that affect the eye. Reducing the effects of lacrimal
gland inflammatory problems improves tear production, hopefully
avoiding dry eye disorders such as Sjogren's syndrome.
Tear evaporation is reduced by decreasing inflammatory problems
affecting the meibomium glands such as blepharitis and acne rosacea.
An interesting third factor is that omega-3 essential oils actually
seem to be some of the active ingredients in producing a healthy
tear film oil layer.
Tools such as extra lubrication and punctal plugs will still be
needed to treat dry eyes with significant discomfort. Our improved
understanding of the natural history of dry eye will allow however
for the future use of alternative treatments such as dietary
supplements. Omega-3 dietary supplements have already been shown to
be essential nutrients in other health areas, now we know that they
are also the "good oil" for dry eye management.
When following these treatments to control and cure Dry Eye
Disorder, be sure to adhere strictly to the guidelines prescribed by
your doctor for each one.