People who suffer from dry eyes have reduced tear production. The condition has become increasingly common because of all the hours we spend staring at screens from devices like smartphones, computers, tablets etc. Dry eyes are irritated, and the problem may cause damage to both your eyes and eyesight. However, a team of scientists from the Hokkaido University in Japan has demonstrated that healthy fats such as omega-3 are able to protect the eyes and repair damage. You can also find other useful tips on natural ways to prevent and treat dry eyes.
When we blink, the tears that we produce lubricate the surface of the eyes, thereby rendering protection against irritation and disease. The risk of dry eyes increases with age and with the amount of time that we spend looking at screens from phones, tablets, computers, and TVs and forget to blink. Symptoms typically include the feeling of having sand in the eyes or stinging. There may also be problems such as transient blurry vision, red eyes, infection, and local inflammation in the surface of the eye.
Dry eyes can make it difficult to read or wear lenses, and the condition can also lower your tolerance towards tobacco smoke, dry air, and air conditioning.
In the majority of cases, dry eyes are not a sign of disease but of poor tear production. More and more people suffer from dry eyes. An estimated 50 percent of all Americans from the age of 18 years and older suffer from this condition, which is also known as DES (or Dry Eyes Syndrome). What it is interesting, though, is that omega-3 fatty acids appear to have a number of positive effects that are useful for maintaining the tear production and preventing dry eyes.
Tears keep your eyes healthy because they
The study focused on a specific gene and on the long-chained omega-3 fatty acids and their function
The team of scientists from Hokkaido University conducted their study on mice that had been genetically engineered to no longer carry a gene called Elovl1. This gene is responsible for prolonging chains of essential omega-3 fatty acids. The scientists observed that mice without the Elovl1 gene blinked their eyes more frequently and showed signs of dry eyes or DES.
After five months, many of mice had cloudy corneas. Under normal conditions, the cornea protects the eye against dirt, microbes, and other substances, and the researchers assumed that that the cloudy corneas were a result of the dry eyes, which prevents the corneas from repairing themselves. The study showed that the Elovl1 gene is associated with the formation of long-chained omega-3 fatty acids that are believed to counteract DES.
Why omega-3 fatty acids counteract dry eyes
Omega-3 fatty acids belong to the group of polyunsaturated, long-chained fatty acids, and there are different forms depending on the length of their chains. The type of omega-3 called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) that we get from vegetable sources is converted to EPA and DHA with help from enzymes. EPA and DHA that have even longer chains are found naturally in oily fish and fish oil products. They have a number of physiological functions, which pertain to tear fluid and eye health. Because EPA and DHA are liquid at room temperature, they are able to prevent a blockage of the tear canals. In addition, the tears are supplied with the necessary lipids that help moisturize the eyes and prevent tear fluid from evaporating. Omega-3 fatty acids also help protect the local nerve paths and counteract inflammation that often occurs because of local irritation or injuries.
Prevent dry eyes with omega-3 – and remember to blink
According to the Hokkaido University researchers, it is good to eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. ALA is found in vegetable sources such as linseed oil, rapeseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts. Many people have difficulty with converting ALA to EPA and DHA and therefore benefit more from consuming oily fish such as herring, salmon, anchovies and sardines or taking fish oil supplements that contain EPA and DHA. It is also important always to remember to blink and perhaps you can slightly massage your closed eyes from time to time when sitting in front of the computer screen.
More good advice for those suffering from dry and irritated eyes
- Make sure to get enough vitamin A, it contributes to good eye health
- Rub two of your fingers against each other for around 15 seconds until they are warm. Then place the finger tips on your closed eyelids for around 30 seconds
- Apply a tepid piece of cloth on your closed eyes twice daily to increase blood circulation, until the symptoms disappear
- Luke-warm liquid coconut oil on a cotton pad is also useful. Place the cotton pad on the closed eyelids for approx. 15 minutes. Repeat procedure if needed
- If you are not able to limit the time you spend in front of a screen, at least remember to blink more often to help moisturize your eyes.
- Close your eyes for a few seconds and gently massage your eyelids several times daily
- Try replacing your contact lenses with glasses
- Make sure to avoid dry indoor climates. If necessary, get a hold of an evaporator
Beware of other things that can cause dry and irritated eyes, including:
- Allergies to pollen, dust, mold, nickel (e.g. in black mascara), preservatives in face creams etc.
- Side effects from birth control pills, hormone pills, and medical drugs
- Menopause and lack of estriol (a type of estrogen)
- Certain autoimmune diseases (Sjogren’s disease, LED, and rheumatoid arthritis)
- Long-term use of contact lenses
Jessica Dolores. Are your computer screens causing dry eye problem? Eat more good fats to repair lipid layer.
Nutrients.News March, 2018
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