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What Vitamins Are Good for Dry Eye?

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A woman experiencing dry eye syndrome rubbing both of her eyes.

If you’ve ever experienced a burning sensation in your eyes that just won’t go away, you’ve likely had dry eye disease. This common condition often leads to visible redness, burning sensations, and overall irritation. Fortunately, your optometrist can help! With dry eye therapy, you can find relief from dry eye symptoms, and your optometrist can give you advice on preventing dry eye in the future—like by informing you of the vitamins your eyes need.

Vitamins that are good for dry eye include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D

What Is Dry Eye?

Your eyes are a lot more complicated than they may seem at first. They’re full of tiny parts that contribute to keeping your vision clear and the eyes themselves healthy—it’s one big interconnected system. One important component of this system is your tear film.

Your tear film protects and hydrates the eyes, all without interfering with how light enters the eye. This tear film is made up of 3 layers:

  • The mucin layer: This layer is produced in the conjunctiva and helps the tear film adhere to the eye’s surface and spread evenly.
  • The aqueous layer: This layer is primarily water with some salt and protein mixed in. It’s produced in the lacrimal gland and helps provide oxygen and nutrients to the eye while preventing infections and flushing away debris and dust.
  • The oil layer: This layer is primarily made up of oils produced in the meibomian glands. This keeps the outer layer smooth while preventing early evaporation of tears.

Sometimes, a problem can develop with one of these layers. The eye may not produce enough tears, or the tears being produced may evaporate too early. This can lead to burning sensations in the eye as it’s vulnerable and unprotected, often leading to redness, watery eyes, and more. When this occurs, it’s called “dry eye disease” or “dry eye.”

What Causes Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye disease is a lot more common than most people think; it’s estimated to affect almost 30% of Canadians. Many factors can contribute to the development of this condition, including:

  • A windy, smoky, or dry environment
  • Aging
  • Hormonal changes, especially in females
  • Certain medications
  • Health conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis

However, one common cause that’s often overlooked is nutritional deficiency.

Your eyes need specific nutrients and vitamins to do their job properly. And when they can’t get the nutrients they need, they’ll often develop unwanted side effects, like dry eyes.

So, what vitamins and nutrients can help prevent dry eyes?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

An assortment of food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and a bowl full of Omega-3 supplements on a wooden backdrop.

Omega-3 fatty acids are renowned for their anti-inflammatory properties and are crucial for eye health. They’re an essential part of maintaining a healthy tear film and clear eyesight.

Because of this, they help promote a healthy tear film, making them ideal for preventing dry eyes or alleviating future symptoms.

Foods with Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The best sources of omega-3s for eye health include:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines
  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts

Incorporating these foods regularly into your diet can help give your eyes the tools they need to fight off dry eyes.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is critical in maintaining healthy vision and quality tear production. It also contributes heavily to clear night vision—in fact, vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of night blindness and can play a big role in dry eye development.

Foods with Vitamin A

To boost your vitamin A intake, consider adding the following to your diet:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach and other dark leafy greens
  • Beef liver
  • Eggs, particularly the yolks
  • Dairy products like milk and cheese
  • Mangoes

Working more vitamin A into your diet can help improve your night vision and reduce the risk of developing dry eyes.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is key to maintaining healthy optic nerves and corneas—both critical parts of the visual system. This vitamin helps protect the eyes from damage and supports overall eye health.

Foods with Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 can be found in:

  • Meats, particularly organ meats
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products like milk and cheese
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Fortified cereals or plant-based milk for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet

Incorporating these foods into your diet can provide your body with the necessary levels of B12 for healthy eyes.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports the health of your blood vessels. This can enhance tear production and prevent dry eyes and even cataracts. Overall, Vitamin C is key in tissue repair and growth throughout your body.

Foods with Vitamin C

Natural sources of vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons
  • Red and green bell peppers
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries

By loading up on these vitamin C-rich foods, you’re giving your eyes a powerful ally against dryness.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” supports the health of the tear glands. Because the sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, a vitamin often associated with the eyes, it’s an important factor to consider in maintaining eye lubrication.

Foods with Vitamin D

While it may be challenging to get enough vitamin D through diet alone, some food sources include:

  • Fatty fish
  • Fortified dairy products
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Egg yolks

Including these foods in your diet, coupled with moderate sun exposure, can benefit your eyes and ward off dryness. If you can’t incorporate this vitamin—or any others—into your diet, trying supplements can be particularly beneficial. This way, you’re arming your body with what you need to keep your eyes and vision strong.

Find Relief from Your Dry Eyes

Incorporating these vitamins into your diet can be an excellent way to prevent dry eyes, keep your eyes healthy, and enjoy clear vision. However, nutrition is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s crucial to regularly visit our team at Bayside Eye Care for comprehensive eye exams so we can give you up-to-date advice on preventing dry eyes. Don’t let dry eyes disrupt your day—book an appointment with our team today!

Written by Dr. Erin Haney

Dr. Erin Haney has practiced within the neuro-optometric specialty since 2012 and in the primary eye care field since 2007 at Bayside Eye Care and Vision Rehabilitation Centre. She specializes in the diagnosis and management of visual dysfunction in acquired brain injury and concussion patients. Dr. Haney also treats children with functional or binocular vision disorders.
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