The symptoms are common: burning, sandy-gritty irritation or dryness. Although millions suffer from the disease, many don't even know that they even have it. In fact, scientists estimate that 20 to 30 million people in the U.S. have some form of Dry Eye Syndrome. An additional nine to ten million people have moderate or severe symptoms of dry eyes.
Dry eyes can result from aging long-term contact lens
wear, LASIK surgery, diabetes, arthritis, or a dietary deficiency of omega-3s. Symptoms increase from protracted computer use and from the dry air circulated by indoor heating and air-conditioning. The syndrome is caused by a decrease in tear production or increase in tear evaporation that makes the tears too "salty."
If left untreated, you may develop more serious problems like scarring, ulcers, or an infection of the cornea. The problem is that people don't realize the seriousness of the condition and do little for treatment.
"It can be a debilitating condition and many people just sweep it under the rug by using over-the-counter drops," says Dr. Jeffrey P. Gilbard, MD of the Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School. "People just aren't aware that most of these drops are not healthy for the eye. All but one wash the natural electrolytes out of the eye, and the one prescription medication for dry eye has no effect on dry eye symptoms."
Dr. Gilbard points out that in many the condition can be effectively treated by increasing the dietary intake of omega-3s. These omega-3s are "essential fatty acids" that are scarce in American diets. They can be obtained primarily from sardines, herring, and tuna.
However, the FDA warns Americans not to eat tuna more than twice a week due to its high mercury content. A better choice for getting omega-3s would be salmon or anchovies, both containing lower levels of mercury.
If you are unable or unwilling to get your omega-3s by eating sardines, there are alternatives. Dr. Gilbard recommends TheraTears Nutrition, a purified omega-3 supplement designed for patients with dry eye. It's an easy way to get the vital nutrition that you need to control your dry eyes.