The tears on the surface of the eye are a salt solution. The surface of the eye needs these tears because the delicate living cells on the surface of the eye have no blood supply—it has a tear supply instead. So rather than getting important things like oxygen and electrolytes from the blood, it gets them from the watery layer of the tears. This watery layer is so important that it is covered by a layer of oil produced by the oil glands in the eyelid that protects it from evaporation.
The first thing that happens when an eye becomes dry is that the tears lose water and become too salty. Just like when you throw salt on a wound it causes stinging and burning, when your tears become too salty they cause stinging and burning of the eye surface. As the eyes become drier this becomes a sandy-gritty irritation of the eyes.
Dry eye is one of the most common conditions affecting the eyes. It affects approximately 14% of people over the age of forty, and the prevalence increases with age. This is because there are so many ways to get dry eye. Anything that decreases tear production or increases tear evaporation may cause dry eye.
Long-term hard contact lens wear, LASIK eye surgery, certain viral infections of the cornea, and diabetes all may cause decreased corneal sensation and, with it, the decrease in tear production that results in dry-eye irritation.
Many people choose to treat dry eyes with eye drops. It used to be that all artificial tears were pretty much the same. They were designed to cover up the dry spots that appear on the eye in advanced cases of dry eye. These drops were developed before it was realized that dry spots don’t cause dry eye but are a result of the tears becoming too salty. These drops would provide temporary relief of dry eye but the dry eye would never get better.
Recently it was discovered that just as the electrolytes in the blood are biologically active, the electrolytes in the tear film are biologically active as well. It turns out that if the content of an artificial tear does not precisely match this electrolyte balance, the drop can “starve” the surface of the electrolytes it needs and decrease the quantity of lubrication. So in effect, with these drops, patients take one step forward, but also one step back.
There is another way to accelerate dry eye relief, and possibly even obtain complete dry eye relief. In a study of nearly 33,000 female health professionals it was found that the more omega-3s they ate, the lower their risk for dry eye. This is actually the third study that has linked dry eye to a dietary deficiency of omega-3s. Omega-3s are “essential fatty acids” that are scarce in the American diet. They can be obtained from salmon, sardines, herring, and tuna.
Tuna is the number one source of omega-3s in the American diet, but now the FDA warns Americans not to eat it more than twice a week because of problems with high mercury content. To provide a healthy source of omega-3s for relief of dry eye irritation for those who won’t, don’t or can’t eat sardines every day, TheraTears Nutrition for Dry Eyes (omega-3 supplement with flaxseed oil, fish oil and vitamin E) is a great way to get the omega-3s that you need.
The omega-3s in TheraTears Nutrition seems to help provide dry eye relief in three ways. First, omega-3s improve eye comfort by suppressing inflammation. Second, the oil glands in the eyelid use essential fatty acids to manufacture the oil layer of the tear film. TheraTears Nutrition provides the omega-3s your oil glands need to make a healthy protective layer of oil that coats the tear film and makes dry eyes feel better. Finally, the omega-3s work together to protect the tear gland and help it make more tear fluid.
In addition to soothing the symptoms of dry eye, omega-3s carry other benefits for diabetics. High dietary intake of omega-3s correlates with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, omega-3 have been shown to reduce elevated triglycerides in non-insulin dependent diabetics, and even more importantly, omega-3s reduce the risk of death from coronary heart disease and total mortality in diabetic women.
If you have dry eye and diabetes, you are not alone. There are excellent treatments available that can greatly add to your health and comfort.