Does Fish Oil Help with Dry Eyes

Fish oil is one of the most suggested health supplements. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for human life. Many believe that fish oil can confer health benefits that go beyond simply keeping you alive.

What Are the Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

According to Healthline, there are several scientifically-verified benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. These include improving eye health, fighting depression, promoting brain health in pregnancy and early life, improving heart disease risk markers, reducing symptoms of metabolic syndrome, reducing inflammation, and several others.

Should You Use Fish Oil for Dry Eyes?

Dry eye can be caused by a lack of oil in the tears, so it’s not a big surprise that some people find relief by increasing their intake of dietary oils. Fish oil, known for its high omega-3 content, is considered such a healthy oil that it’s available in supplement form. According to the Mayo Clinic, research suggests that it is indeed helpful to take fish oil for dry eyes. Mayo says that studies suggest that “omega-3 fatty acids can improve the eye’s oil film that’s produced by small glands on the edge of the eyelid, called the meibomian glands.”

In some studies, the specific omega-3s found in fish oil have been dosed separately so they can be examined on their own. There are two main omega-3s in fish oil – docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA. For the studies, patients were given EPA and DHA.During the study, few side effects were reported. Higher dosages, however, do involve risks: Bleeding, elevated LDL cholesterol, and a fishy smell are among them.

Omega-3 from Food vs. Supplements

As with most if not all nutrients, there are plenty of doctors and nutritionists who say omega-3s should be obtained from foods. This, however, is often not realistic. One would need to eat 17 cans of tuna to fulfill the amount present in supplements. 

In the case of omega-3 fatty acids, the usual food source is fatty fish. Salmon, catfish, halibut, albacore tuna, and striped sea bass are some highly recommended species. However, care must be taken when it comes to where they are harvested. That’s because some waters – and the fish that come from them – contain high levels of mercury.

The other factor that makes it hard to get enough omega-3s just from your diet is simply that you might not want to eat fatty fish all the time. In fact, you might not like these species at all.

Because of these issues, supplements provide an easier and more reliable way to get your omega-3 fatty acids.

Fish Oil vs. Flaxseed Oil

Flax seed and flaxseed oil have become darlings of the nutritional world in recent times. Both forms of flax are healthy, but how well do they work for dry eyes?

From a strictly nutritional standpoint, fish oil is slightly superior to flaxseed oil. That’s because the fish oil directly contains DHA and EPA, while with flaxseed oil, the body must do a conversion process in order to glean the omega-3s.

Vegans, vegetarians, and others who want to avoid fish oil, however, will find that flaxseed oil does provide benefits for dry eye. It simply isn’t quite as efficient as fish oil. On the plus side, flaxseed oil is usually less expensive.

Benefits of Fish Oil

Fish oil directly provides one of the main components of retinal structure – DHA. It has also been shown to improve symptoms of dry eye. Along with these eye-related benefits, fish oil helps to protect the heart, regulate cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and otherwise provide general health benefits.

Risks of Fish Oil

The risk profile of fish oil is dose-dependent. At the doses recommended when taking fish oil for dry eyes, there is little risk. The risk increases with higher doses, which bring in blood-thinning effects. Then, internal bleeding, increased LDL (bad) cholesterol, and a general fishy odor may occur.

At Garibaldi Eye Care, We recommend people use 3000mg a day of combined DHA/EPA. This is the recommended dose for dry eyes. The brand we use does not have effects on blood thinning and does not have a fish after taste.

For medical help with dry eye syndrome, contact an optometrist. In Squamish, BC, call Garibaldi Eye Care to set up an appointment.