Ask an Eye M.D. Answer Archive

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Question:
I have been told by a woman that her doctor instructed her to take fish oil or flaxseed oil gels, for "dry eye" problems. After two weeks, of taking one 1000 mg flaxseed gel daily, her dry eye problems have diminished. Her eyes are no longer tearing and she very seldom has to use eye drops. Have you any information or ever heard tell of this treatment?

Answer:
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids in that the body cannot make these. A growing body of evidence suggests that supplementation with these or a diet rich in these have a wide range of beneficial health effects. Many ophthalmologists have been using these to treat dry eye and other chronic external ocular conditions such as blepharitis. The active Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, have been particularly studied. These are found in high concentrations in fish oil but can also be obtained from vegetable sources such as flax seed oil. While optimal dosages have not been worked out, you want to choose a supplement with at least several hundred milligrams of these two ingredients. There is less evidence that Omega 6 supplementation (found in flax seed and borage oil and others) is as important, but there is data that there is a complementary effect between Omega 3 and 6. Omega 9 can be made by the body and is therefore not an essential fatty acid and supplementation may not be needed. So the answer is yes, this is becoming a commonly used treatment for dry eye with many possible other health benefits.

Answered by: Gary Hirshfield, MDDr. Gary Hirshfield

Categories: Eye Conditions; General Eye Health

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Answered: Nov 29, 2010

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