You may have heard of omega 3 fish oil supplements. Maybe you’ve even taken them as a general health supplement. But can they really help with dry eyes? What does science have to say about them?
In this post, we’ll see whether the claims that omega 3 fish oil supplements help with dry eyes are founded. We’ll also look at the different types of fish oil supplements available.
What’s the Link Between Dry Eyes and Omega 3s?
Each time you blink, fresh tears spread across the cornea and the sclera that make up the surface of your eyes. In addition to water and mucus, the tear film consists of an oily layer that helps lubricate the surface of the eye and prevents tear evaporation.
Dry eyes can occur when there is an imbalance in the tear film. Or when the tear glands located above the eyes don’t produce enough tears. Without enough lubrication, your eyes can feel scratchy, burn, and become red and irritated.
Many causes can contribute to dry eyes including age, air conditioning systems, living in dry environments, sun exposure, digital eye strain, and certain diseases and medication.
The richest source of omega 3 fatty acids that the body can readily use is fish oil. Fish oil is extracted from oily fish like salmon and mackerel and contains two omega 3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA.
Found in every cell of your body, DHA and EPA perform many different functions, not least of which is producing oil for tears. They also help keep inflammatory processes under control.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the documented omega 3 eye health benefits.
Benefits of Omega 3 Fish Oil for Dry Eyes
There’s more to fish oil than marketing hype. Here’s what science has to say about fish oil for dry eyes.
Relieves Dry Eyes Symptoms
A 2015 study found that omega 3 fish oil supplements soothed dry eye symptoms and decreased tear evaporation.
Participants in the study used computers for more than 3 hours a day and suffered from dry eyes related to computer vision syndrome. The beneficial results were noted after six months with daily doses of 180mg EPA and 120mg DHA.
Another study found that omega 3 for eyes in the form of fish oil significantly improved dry eyes symptoms in people with ocular rosacea, a condition causing eye inflammation.
In this study, participants received two capsules of fish oil. Marked results were seen after both 3 and 6 months.
May Help Soothe Eye Inflammation
Inflammation of the eye or eyelids can make dry eyes worse. Omega 3 fish oil may help reduce eye inflammation, which in turn may alleviate related symptoms.
Eye inflammation may occur as a complication of dry eyes, such as after using eye drops repeatedly. Dry eyes are also associated with inflammatory changes in the cornea, conjunctiva, and other surfaces of the eye.
Improves the Function of the Meibomian Glands
The meibomian glands line the margin of the eyelids and secrete the oily constituent of the tear film. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, omega 3 fatty acids may improve their function. This can soothe dry eyes symptoms and improve the quality of the tear film.
May Reduce the Risk of Dry Eyes in Women
A large study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who consumed more omega 3 had a lower risk of dry eyes.
The 32,470 women who took part in the study were 45 to 84 years old and consumed omega 3 fats directly from fish.
Is Fish Oil Better Than Other Omega 3 Sources?
Fish oil is not the only source of omega 3 fatty acids. Other major omega 3 sources include flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybean oil, and canola oil.
However, plant-based omega 3 comes in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body converts into DHA and EPA. This process is not very efficient, and much of the ALA is lost during the conversion.
Fish oil is a more reliable source of omega 3 fatty acids than plant-based sources.
That said, the omega 3 content of fish can vary depending on what the fish eats and other factors.
Good to know: Certain algae can also be a reliable source of omega 3 fatty acids. If you don’t eat fish, you may want to consider taking algae-based supplements.
What Is the Best Fish Oil for Dry Eyes?
Omega 3 fish oil supplements come in the form of small capsules or bottled oil. In addition to fish oil, you can find in pharmacies cod liver oil, krill oil, and algal oil supplements.
A common dose has 1,000mg fish oil, which according to the US National Institute of Health provides 120mg DHA and 180mg EPA.
According to the same source, krill oil may provide more bioavailable omega 3 than fish oil. Cod oil, meanwhile, also has vitamin A and vitamin D.
The fish richest in omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, bluefin tuna, sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel, sablefish, and whitefish. Atlantic and Chinook salmon typically have more omega 3 than Chum, Pink, and Sockeye salmon.
It’s also worth remembering that different fish oil supplements contain different forms of omega 3 fatty acids. Some of these are natural, others are synthesized.
The World Health Organization suggests a daily dose of 200 to 500mg DHA and EPA. There is not enough evidence to suggest that doses higher than 1,000mg DHA and 2,000mg EPA provide more benefits. On the contrary, they may cause side effects such as a higher risk of bleeding.
Important: Taking fish oil supplements every day for long periods may not be healthy. If you plan to do this, it’s best to talk with a doctor about it first.
In the end, when it comes to dry eye omega 3 fish oil supplements, there is no simple winner. Discuss with your eye health doctor and pharmacist your options and follow their recommendations.
If you buy fish oil for dry eyes online, compare your options to understand the source of the oil and make an informed decision.
The Wrap Up
The fish oil-eye health link is real. Fish oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids with a higher bioavailability than those found in plants. Omega 3 fatty acids may alleviate dry eye symptoms, help tear glands function properly, reduce inflammation, and support overall eye health and vision.
A fish oil for eyes supplement is a good way to boost your dietary intake of omega 3 if you don’t eat oily fish regularly. If you are a vegetarian, you can opt for algae-based alternatives.
However, not all omega 3 fish oil supplements are equal, so it’s important to make an informed choice. You also want to avoid taking very high doses of omega 3 fish oil supplements as there is no evidence they are more beneficial than normal doses.