Natural Treatments for Dry Eyes
Dr. Julian Whitaker
According to Voltaire, tears may be “the silent language of grief,” but they’re also your eyes’ natural, protective lubricant. Unfortunately, millions of people have a condition called dry eye syndrome (also known simply as dry eyes) that is marked by problems with tear production. The good news is there are several natural treatments for dry eyes.
What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome or “ocular surface disease,” which is the medical name for this disorder, refers to a decline in the quality or quantity of tears bathing the eye. This condition is increasingly common with advancing age—there are estimates that 75 percent of people over the age of 65 will experience dry eyes. Women are also more susceptible to dry eye syndrome. Dry air, long hours in front of a computer, and certain medications, including antihistamines and decongestants are other factors that can contribute to dry eye syndrome.
Why Treating Dry Eyes Is Important
Adequate production of healthy tears is essential. Tears contain lipids (fats) that reduce evaporation and keep your eyes bathed in moisture, maintain the proper salinity and acidity of the eye area, and are made up of antibodies and other immune-enhancing agents to defend against infection.
If your eyes often feel itchy, gritty, burning, or painful, you may have dry eye syndrome. Along with eye irritation, sensitivity to light is also common, especially in milder cases. In severe cases, scarring or ulceration of the cornea can occur, which has the potential to lead to vision loss. Therefore, treating dry eyes is important.
Dry eye syndrome is usually treated with lubricating eye drops (artificial tears). While this may provide relief, it does nothing to correct or prevent the underlying condition. That’s why I recommend using natural treatments for dry eyes instead. It’s also worth noting that these same natural treatments for dry eyes can help prevent the problem from developing in the first place.
Natural Treatments for Dry Eyes: Omega-3s and Antioxidants
Two of the processes at work in dry eye syndrome are inflammation and free radical damage. Recognizing that inflammation of the tear-producing glands and the eye itself play a significant role in dry eye syndrome, researchers examined the relationship between dry eyes and intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which have potent anti-inflammatory effects. Looking at data on more than 32,000 women involved in the Women’s Health Study, they found that women with a higher intake of omega-3s had a much lower risk of dry eye syndrome than those with reduced intakes.
Based on these findings, one of the best preventive measures and natural treatments for dry eyes is ensuring an adequate intake of omega-3s. This is best achieved by making a point to eat wild salmon and other fatty fish on a regular basis, and taking a quality omega-3 supplement.
To maintain healthy tear-producing glands, you also need a good supply of antioxidants. They are the best free radical fighters available (as I mentioned earlier, free radical damage is the other primary factor at work in dry eyes). In fact, you may already know that some of most widely recognized antioxidants—vitamins A, C, and E—play a crucial role in vision health. Similarly, carotenoids—particularly lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin—are other powerful free radical scavengers.
You can boost your levels of antioxidants and carotenoids by eating brightly colored fruits and vegetables and other foods rich in these powerful nutrients. But if you’re already experiencing dry eyes, I also recommend taking supplements that contain them.
Other Natural Treatments for Dry Eyes
One other therapy for treating dry eyes you may want to consider is acupuncture. Patients suffering from dry eye syndrome who received three acupuncture treatments per week for a month experienced marked improvements in symptoms and increased tear secretion.
I want to close by saying that if you would like to use eye drops to alleviate the discomfort of dry eyes, I recommend VIVA Eye Drops from Corneal Science. In addition to being preservative-free, this product contains vitamin A and other antioxidants that improve the normal tear film and help heal the epithelial cells on the surface of the cornea. In one study, people with dry eyes used one or two drops of VIVA in one eye and artificial tears in the other several times a day for four months. Improvements were reported in 61 percent of the eyes treated with VIVA compared to 15 percent of the eyes treated with artificial tears.
Another good eye drop product is Visual Ocuity. It not only keeps eyes moist and relieves dryness but also helps to prevent eye irritation from occurring in the first place.
Just keep in mind that these eye drops should be used in combination with the other natural treatments for dry eyes that I’ve shared.