Most of our patients are familiar with some of the health benefits of consuming omega-3 fatty acids. Doctors often recommend these healthy fats to prevent heart disease, to promote healthy skin, and to lower bad cholesterol levels. Very few people, however, realize that omega-3’s can also be beneficial for eye health too. Various studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may be used to decrease discomfort from dry eyes and to treat a condition known as blepharitis, an inflammatory condition of the eyelids. Though the most common dietary source of these fats is fatty fish, there are many vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids too.
One of the most common causes of eye discomfort, temporary blurred vision, and redness is dryness. Eye dryness has affected, at one time or another, the majority of our patients and for some it is a chronic, significant source of discomfort. Dry eyes can come from environmental and internal causes alike. It tends to be more prevalent in women, worsen with age and is sometimes affected by hormonal and medication changes, but it is common among in men and in most age groups. Treatments range from over-the-counter drops and ointments, prescription drops, and even minor tear-duct procedures.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology reported last year that Omega-3 intake may also reduce discomfort from dry eyes. A randomized trial showed that tear quality and dryness was improved, though slightly, with the routine consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.
This condition, which is characterized by red, crusty, inflamed eyelids, is another very common cause for eye discomfort. It is a chronic condition in which the naturally-occurring bacteria on the eyelids becomes overactive, causing irritation, inflammation, “sleep” in the eye and even clogged oil glands, which may lead to styes. Blepharitis is also known to cause or worsen dry eyes.
Some very simple treatment options are available for this condition. We often recommend that our patients with blepharitis clean their eyelids daily with diluted baby shampoo, that they use warm compresses on their eyelids, or, for more severe cases, that they take prescription medicines. Many patients, however, don’t realize that omega-3 fatty acids can help symptoms of blepharitis also.
The National Institute of Health stated in 2008 that patients taking omega-3 supplements saw significant improvements in symptoms of blepharitis. The anti-inflammatory properties of these fatty acids were shown to decrease the dysfunction of the oil-producing glands on the eyelids and contribute to an overall decrease in crusting, redness, irritation and even dryness.
For the treatment of blepharitis, we recommend taking 1000 milligrams of an omega-3 supplement twice a day.
American diets are deficient in these good fats. We tend to consume processed oils and meats high in Omega-6, such as red meats, more often than we consume foods that are high in Omega-3, such as cold-water fish and unprocessed oils.
For most of our patients, we recommend eating at least one good source of omega-3’s per day to get the benefits of these fatty acids. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include the following:
Supplements are an easy way to be sure that you’re getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. These usually take the form of flax seed oil or fish oil supplements. When choosing fish oil, be sure to choose a good quality brand to ensure you’re getting the safest, most effective oils. Some brands we like include the following:
Nature Made – Their line of Omega-3’s includes fish oil, flax seed oil and a 100% vegetarian, gelatin-free omega-3 supplement.
Nature’s Bounty – This company makes both omega-3 capsules and liquid supplements for those who do not like swallowing pills.
Nordic Naturals – This comprehensive line of omega-3 supplements contains fish, flax, and algae supplements in many different forms.
For the treatment of blepharitis and dry eye, we recommend 1 gram (1000 mg) of an omega-3 supplement, twice a day.
It is important that you ask your primary care doctor before starting any supplement. For some patients, omega-3 fatty acids supplements may be contraindicated.
Please let us know if you have any specific questions about nutrition and eye health.
Doctors Tarantino, Cho and Burroughs
Tarantino Eye Center
Leaves are changing, the pumpkins are carved, and soon candy will fill the streets and hearts of costumed feet. We would like to join in the celebrating by offering $65 Off your next complete eye wear purchase.
Unfortunately, monthly specials are in lieu of other discounts, specials, or insurances. They may also exclude certain collections, such as premium sunglasses.
More and more, our patients ask us if they should be taking a lutein supplement for their eyes. This may be because vitamin producers are touting the benefits of lutein for eye health and filling store shelves with lutein supplements, but many doctors are not as confident about the benefits of taking lutein yet.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are the two major carotenoids found in the pigment layer of the macula, the sensitive central portion of the retina. Together they act as a UV filter, protecting the eye from the blue-light damage that can increase the risk of macular degeneration.
In 2001, a study carried out by the University of Chicago called the Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trail (LAST) did find that 10 mg of lutein a day may slightly improve both the macular pigment density and the visual acuity of patients with macular degeneration. The scientists behind this study, however, do recognize that further research needs to be done on a larger, more diverse sample to truly be able to assess lutein’s effect on eye health (Journal of the American Optometric Association, 2004).
Some patients, especially those with macular degeneration or those with a family history of the disease, may find the LAST findings convincing enough to start adding lutein and zeaxanthin to their diets. For the prevention of worsening macular degeneration, the dose recommended by LAST is 10 mg per day. This can be taken as a supplement or found in the following foods:
Kale, 1 cup (cooked)………………………………….. 23.8 mg
Spinach, 1 cup (cooked)……………………………… 20.4 mg
Corn, 1 cup (cooked)…………………………………. 2.2 mg
Broccoli, 1 cup (cooked)……………………………… 1.6 mg
Romaine lettuce, 1 cup (raw)………………………… 1.3 mg
Eggs, 2 large…………………………………………….. 0.3 mg
Chart Source: The American Optometric Association. “Foods with Lutein and Zeaxanthin.” Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Web. 3 August 2012. <http://www.aoa.org/x11815.xml>
All patients should consult with their primary care doctors before starting any over-the-counter supplement.
Check back with us soon; in the coming weeks we’ll be sharing more information about vitamins and supplements that may improve eye health!
The Environmental Protection Agency has deemed Maryland’s mean UV index as “high” for the month of July, meaning that we should take extra precaution to protect ourselves from sun damage (EPA, 2012). This is especially important in Central Maryland, where we spend much of our summer enjoying the ocean and the Chesapeake Bay; reflections off sand and water surfaces can even double our UV exposure!
We all know to protect our skin from UV exposure by using sunscreen, but many of us do not take the time to protect our eyes. The eye, being a delicate organ that is not protected by skin, is uniquely vulnerable to the damaging effects of UV rays. Various eye diseases are linked to lifelong sun exposure.
A pterygium is an abnormal growth that forms on the surface of the eye. It is known to be caused by long-term sun exposure and therefore is most common in people who live near the equator, those who work outside or those who spend much of their time on the water. In severe cases, this growth can cause significant irritation and even visual loss.
A cataract occurs when the clear lens in the eye gradually becomes cloudy, causing blurred vision and glare. Though most people will develop at least some cataract with age, cataracts can become more severe in people who have been exposed to significant amounts of UV rays. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 20% of cataracts are linked to UV exposure, therefore making them avoidable with proper sun protection habits (WHO, 2012).
Age-related Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of visual loss in people over 65. It is a disease of the retina whose symptoms include blurred vision; distortion of objects, faces, and words; and even dark, “missing” areas of central vision. Its exact cause is unknown, but scientists and doctors do believe that heredity and UV exposure play a role in the development of macular degeneration.
Cancers of the eye are possible and they may be associated with long-term sun exposure. Though extremely rare, melanoma can develop inside the eye and may result in visual loss. The eyelids are a common place for less worrisome cancers, like basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.
But a high UV index does not mean that you have to sit inside all summer! Doctors Tarantino and Cho have a few tips to help you limit your risk this summer (and all year round!).
Pick the right sunglasses! Don’t focus on the darkness of the sunglasses, but look for sunglasses that offer “UV 400” protection. Larger lenses and wrap-around styles can further protect the eyes and eyelids from the sun.
Bring a hat! A large, wide-brimmed hat will not only protect your eyes, but it will also help to shield your facial skin from sun damage.
Take care even on cloudy days! Although the sun’s light may not seem bright on cloudy days, UV rays can still penetrate clouds and put you at risk. Protect yourself from the sun no matter the weather.
Be extra cautious at midday! The sun’s rays are at its strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It is important to avoid direct exposure at these times.
The same goes for the kids! Many parents are in the habit of using sunglasses and hats, but they forget to encourage their children to do the same. Make good eye health habits a part of your child’s routine too.
See more clearly this Independence Day and every day with Premium Anti-Reflective coatings. These coatings are built into your lenses, include a two-sided scratch coat, and minimize white light glare. Enjoy better vision and Save 50% on these coatings all month.
*Disclaimer* Unfortunately, monthly specials are in lieu of other discounts, specials, or insurances. They may also exclude certain collections, such as premium sunglasses.
Welcome to our blog! Within this regularly updated feature of our website, we will provide visitors with practice news and specials, as well as information regarding the most recent technological advances and new treatments in eye care.
We believe that patient education and open communication with your doctor are the keys to achieving healthy, fully functional results and patient satisfaction, which is why we strive to provide the highest quality of eye care for patients of all ages. This is done by combining technical skill and broad experience with cutting-edge technology for impeccable medical results.
We sincerely appreciate you taking the time to visit our new blog. Please check back often to learn about the latest news, updates and additions to the practice and within the field of eye care, and feel free to post comments and/or suggestions on any posts that you find of interest.