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5 Vitamins & Foods That Can Help Relieve Dry Eye

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If you experience dry eyes, you’re likely looking for relief. Thankfully, your optometrist has several treatment options they can recommend. One possible treatment for dry eyes is to make dietary changes.

What sort of vitamins and foods should you consider when making these nutritional changes? Continue reading to learn more about some of the 5 vitamins and foods that can help relieve dry eyes. 

What Is Dry Eye Disease? 

Dry eye disease is a condition approximately 30% of Canadians experience. This condition occurs when your tears cannot effectively lubricate your eyes, causing discomfort and inflammation. When complications arise in the tear film, it can lead to several irritating symptoms. 

You may experience any of the following symptoms when you have dry eyes: 

  • Eyes that burn or sting
  • Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Eye redness
  • Foreign object sensation 
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Eye fatigue 

If you’re experiencing dry eye symptoms, a visit to your eye doctor can help determine the cause of your irritation. Your optometrist can help diagnose why your eyes are dry and recommend an effective treatment plan. One option they may recommend is to make dietary changes to help reduce your symptoms. 

5 Vitamins & Foods for Relieving Dry Eye Symptoms

Dry eye disease is an often chronic condition affecting someone’s everyday life. In-office treatments and prescription medications aren’t always needed when treating dry eyes. Sometimes, your optometrist may recommend changing your diet to help relieve your irritating symptoms. 

5 types of vitamins and foods can benefit your diet to address dry eyes.  

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is well-known for its association with fruits and vegetables. An essential vitamin needed for your overall health—vitamin C can benefit your eyes as well. Vitamin C supports the blood vessels within your eyes and can help reduce your risk of cataracts

You can increase your vitamin C intake with the following foods: 

  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Tomatoes
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Bananas

Your tear film contains vitamin C, and this nutrient helps protect the eyes. Previous research found that vitamin C helps improve tear production

Omega-3 rich food such as fish, shrimps, nuts and vegetables on wooden table.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

You can find omega-3 fatty acids in many different foods, helping provide energy to your body and supporting your heart, lungs, and immune system function. Another option is to increase your omega-3 intake with supplements. Increasing your omega-3 consumption can help relieve dry eye symptoms. 

The main benefit of omega-3s is their ability to soothe inflammation caused by dry eyes. You can relieve irritation in the eyelids and on the eye’s surface.

Another benefit is its ability to stimulate oil production in the meibomian glands, relieving dry eye symptoms. Previous research from 2016 found that omega-3 supplements can significantly improve dry eye symptoms. 

If you’re looking to increase your omega-3 intake, consider these foods

  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Mackerel 
  • Marlin
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed & flaxseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Chia seeds

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is vital for your eye health—a deficiency of this vitamin is a potential cause of dry eyes. You can find vitamin A in many foods, including eggs, pumpkin, squash, carrots, salmon, tuna, and dairy products. 2020 research on vitamin A discovered this antioxidant helps reduce dry eye disease symptoms and improve your tear quality

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for your health. If you have a vitamin D deficiency, you may be at a higher risk of dry eye disease. 

You may have worsened dry eye symptoms or reduced tear production if you have a vitamin D deficiency. Increasing your vitamin D intake may help reduce your dry eye symptoms through diet or sun exposure. 

Products like fatty fish, fortified milk, other dairy products, and mushrooms can help, but time in the sun is the best way to increase vitamin D levels. Aim for 10–15 minutes of sun exposure a day, but supplements are available if you live somewhere with less sunlight. 

Be careful when taking supplements, and use the recommended dose of 600 IU per day for adults. 

Zeaxanthin & Lutein

Zeaxanthin and lutein are antioxidants found in different foods and even your eyes. They help protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) light. Increasing your intake of these antioxidants may help relieve dry eye symptoms. 

A 2016 study discovered lutein helps soothe inflammation in the eyes, reducing dry eye symptoms. 

You can increase your zeaxanthin and lutein consumption with these foods: 

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Summer squash
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Tomatoes
  • Egg yolks

Don’t Live With Dry Eyes

These foods and vitamins may help reduce your dry eye symptoms. Before you make any changes to your diet, ensure you speak with your optometrist. They can recommend the most effective nutritional changes or other treatment options

Contact your eye doctor if you’re experiencing dry eye symptoms. 

Written by Dr. Asim Prasad

Dr. Asim Prasad is a native Calgarian who earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Vision Science and Doctor of Optometry degree from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 2008. Before becoming an optometrist, Dr. Prasad earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Alberta. After working in the environmental science industry for a short time, Dr. Prasad decided to pursue his true passion: optometry.
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