Why Are My Eyes Dry?
Dry eye syndrome, also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, can be caused by both decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation. While there are two types of dry eye, there are several factors influencing why your eyes may be dry.
Dry Eye Symptoms
There are several dry eye symptoms that individuals may experience:1
- Stinging, burning sensation in the eyes
- Scratchy eyes
- Mucus in and around the eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Difficulty driving in the dark/at night
- Redness of the eye
- Feeling like you constantly have something in your eyes
- Discomfort wearing contacts
- Watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Tired/fatigue eyes
Cause of Dry Eye Disease
Dry eye syndrome is a condition that occurs when an individual’s tear film is disrupted. There are three layers of your tear film — fatty oils, aqueous fluid and mucous. These layers work together to help your eyes maintain a lubricated and smooth surface. However, if there is an issue with any of the three layers, dry eyes may occur.
As Mayo Clinic outlines, there are several reasons an individual may experience tear film dysfunction:
- Hormonal changes
- Autoimmune disease
- Inflamed eyelid glands
- Allergic eye disease
Dry eye is caused by decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation. With decreased tear production, or aqueous deficient, you are unable to produce enough aqueous fluid.
Aqueous Deficient – decreased tear production
Evaporative – the tear film evaporates too quickly
One of the biggest factors increasing the risk for dry eye is aging, with 8.4% showing signs of eye dryness at age 60, 15% at ages 70-79 and 20% for individuals over 80-years-old.2 Women also show more prevalence of the disease than men. In addition, wearing contacts or having had eye surgery increases the risk.
Tear film stability, also a major factor in dry eye, is influenced by aging. An abnormal positioning of the eyelid in which it is lax, floppy or retracting, increases the rate of tear film evaporations.2
Dry Eye Caused by Decreased Tear Production
The aqueous deficient form of dry eye occurs when you’re unable to produce enough liquid, or tears.
According to Mayo Clinic, the causes of this form of dry eye include the following:
- Medical conditions including Sjogren’s syndrome, allergic eye disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus. Scleroderma, graft vs. host disease, sarcoidosis, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency
- Medications including antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, high blood pressure medication, acne medication and birth control
- Contact lens use causing corneal nerve sensitivity
Dry Eye Caused by Increased Tear Evaporation
When the meibomian glands, the small gland on the edge of your eyelids, become clogged, tear evaporation may occur.
Clogging of the meibomian gland is more common to occur in those with skin disorders or other conditions, including the below:
- Meibomian gland dysfunction
- Parkinson’s disease which causes individuals to blink less
- Abnormal eyelid positioning – turning outward or inward (ectropion or entropion)
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Environmental factors such as wind, smoke and dry air
Supplements for Dry Eyes
Regardless of the cause for your dry eye, one of the best ways to treat this condition is to add the appropriate vitamins and supplements to your routine. There are various supplements for dry eyes that help reduce symptoms and discomfort.
Omega-3 for Dry Eyes
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the rate of tear evaporation, and according to a 2019 study, they also help reduce inflammation which alleviates the irritation and pain associated with dry eye syndrome.3
A diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids help the meibomian glands produce the oily part of tears, which in turn keeps your tears from evaporating or drying up. There are several ways to get omega-3 into your diet through food, which include sources such as fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.), and through nuts, seeds, soybeans and green leafy vegetables.4
The World Health Organization recommends 200 to 500 mg of DHA and EPA per day, while some studies specific to omega-3 for dry eyes show positive effects with 360 mg of EPA and 240+mg of DHA or more.
Vitamin C for Dry Eyes
Vitamin C is important for overall eye health, specifically the blood vessels in the eyes. With inflammation and oxidative stress being an underlying cause for dry eye syndrome, Vitamin C helps to reduce these levels and the risk for eye diseases.5
Vitamin C may also help maintain tear film and the conjunctival surface, which is the thin membrane that covers the front surface of your eye. 5
The body does not create Vitamin C so it must come from either food or supplements. Performance Lab has outlined foods rich in this nutrient, including certain fruits (strawberries, oranges, mango, grapefruit, papaya, kiwi, cantaloupe and melon) and vegetables (bell peppers, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, snow peas and mustard greens).
The general recommended daily allowance for vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women.6
Vitamin E for Dry Eyes
Vitamin E collectively is a group of fat-soluble compounds which have antioxidant properties. It is an important nutrient for protection again cell damage, especially in the eyes. This vitamin gained attention first in the 1980s when it was understood that free radical damage, which this helps prevent, was related and contributed to cancer, vision loss and other chronic condition. 7
Naturally occurring vitamin E is in eight chemical forms: alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol and alpha-, beta- gamma- and delta-tocotrienol. 8
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin E is 15 mg per day.
Vitamin B6 and Magnesium for Dry Eyes
All B vitamins help the body convert carbohydrates into glucose. Vitamin B6 specifically helps for absorption of magnesium which is a necessary nutrient for tear production. 9
Magnesium helps facilitate over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. A deficiency in this nutrient is links to the occurrence of dry eyes. Magnesium deficiency is linked to other ocular diseases as well, such as glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy. 10
Flaxseed for Dry Eyes
Another form of omega-3 for dry eyes, flaxseed oil is an essential nutrient for eye health. Unlike omega-3 fish oil (EPA and DHA) which is a “long-chain” omega-3, flaxseed oil is a “short chain” ALA. 11
A study in which individuals suffering dry eye supplemented flaxseed oil experienced a reduction in itching, dryness, burning and eye fatigue after three months. In addition, the oily secretions from their meibomian glands increased, which is helpful for those suffering from aqueous deficient dry eye. 12
Lactoferrin for Dry Eyes
Lactoferrin is a protein complex with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties that is naturally present in tears. 13 Those individuals with dry eye disease typically have low levels of lactoferrin in their tear film, which then causes the redness and soreness associated with dry eye.14
In a study of patients who were given lactoferrin following cataract surgery, there was a significant benefit in the tear film to those patients who supplemented lactoferrin versus those who did not.14
The Best Supplement for Dry Eyes
If you’re looking for one formula that includes all nutrients and in the recommended dosage for dry eye treatment, the EyeScience Dry Eye Formula is ideal. This formula includes all the best supplements for dry eyes in their appropriate dosages, making it easy to integrate into your health regime.
1 Mayo Clinic
5 Performance Labs
7 National Institutes of Health
8 Healing the Eye
9 De Gruyter
10 All About Vision
12 Assil Eye Institute
13 Natural Eye Care