Dry Eyes?

Dry Eyes?

Posted on 17. Jan, 2010 by in Nutrition

Do you have difficulty reading for prolonged periods because of eye discomfort? What about redness, burning, or a “gritty” feeling in your eyes? If you experience these symptoms or a decreased quality or quantity of tears, you’re not alone. According to one survey, one out of every five of us has dry-eye symptoms, as do 50 percent of people over age 65. The good news is you may be able to put down those eye drops and examine your diet and lifestyle to relieve symptoms.

Anatomy of Dry Eyes

Tears are not just water. They have three separate components: mucus, watery tears, and oil. The innermost layer of tears in direct contact with the eye is the mucous layer, also called mucin. The mucin coats the surface of the cornea. When tears become more mucoid (and therefore less watery), dry-eye symptoms may develop. The middle layer is the watery tears, which stick to the mucin and keep the eye moist. The outer tear layer is composed of oil, which is deposited like an oil slick on the outside of the watery tears to slow their evaporation. Many people have too much oil in their tear film, and studies find that people with oily eyelids have a poor distribution of the outermost, lipid tear layer. This can perpetuate increased evaporation. In other words, people may have plenty of tear volume, but a poor oil slick on the top. The unprotected areas of watery tears can evaporate as a result, leading to dry eyes.

Possible Causes

Tear deficiencies can be associated with numerous medical conditions, including arthritis, taking multiple medications, diabetes, and gradual dehydration. Many medications, both prescription and over the counter, can affect the tear film. Antihistamines, cold remedies, gastrointestinal tract drugs, and even birth control pills can contribute to dry eyes. One study found that antidepressants, antipsychotics, diuretics, and certain high blood pressure medicines all increase the likelihood of developing dry-eye symptoms.

If you take any of these kinds of medications, ask your doctor if it may be contributing to the problem. It’s very difficult to tell by a drug’s packaging whether it causes dry-eye symptoms. But you can bet that if a drug causes dry mouth and aches and pains, it can also irritate the eyes. For anyone who must take one or more of these medications, a dose reduction is sometimes helpful. Otherwise, it’s important to look for an alternative solution.

Healing Therapies

Any therapy for dry eyes should restore the tear film so that symptoms disappear. A few conventional treatments include artificial tears, preservative-free ointments, using a humidifier, wearing protective glasses outdoors, and medicated eye drops.

Any alternative therapy for arthritis is also helpful for dry eyes. Therapy for both lies in lubrication through nutrition. Supplementing your diet with essential fatty acids (EFAs) and a fat-soluble vitamin (like A or E) may be helpful. I cannot tell you how many calls and e-mails I receive every week from my colleagues telling me that EFA supplements really work for their families, their patients, and themselves in relieving dry eyes as well as joint pain.

It’s also important to build up your antioxidants. Be sure to take the following, and talk to your doctor about dosage:

  • A multivitamin and lutein
  • Essential fatty acids
  • B vitamin complex (B 50)
  • Calcium and magnesium
  • Vitamin D (at least 2,000 IU daily).

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About the author:

Dr. Rob Abel co-founded the alternative medicine curriculum at Thomas Jefferson University, where he is a former clinical professor of ophthalmology. He has helped found eye banks, holds patents on artificial corneas, and received the senior honor award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Abel has long been a nationally renown teacher of conventional eye therapy. He assisted with the translations of ancient Ayurvedic eye therapies and his mission is bringing mind-body medicine to 21st century eye care. www.eyeadvisory.com

- who has written 3 articles on Health e Times.

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