Staying Healthy Newsletter - Supplement Shown to Benefit Dry Eye, Relieve Symptoms
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Supplement Shown to Benefit Dry Eye, Relieve Symptoms

Dry Eye Is a Growing Public Health Problem

An estimated 20-30 million Americans are affected by dry eye and that number is expected to rise as the US population ages. Dry eye is associated with a number of risk factors that can potentially impact many people such as aging, menopause, computer use, contact lens wear, LASIK, smoking, exposure to air pollution, dry environments, and diabetes mellitus. So it’s no surprise that dry eye is the one of the most common reasons that people visit their eye doctor.

Diagnosis and Treatment is Important

Treating chronic dry eye is important, as it can progress and lead to impaired vision and reduced quality of life. The symptoms of redness, itching, foreign body sensation and discomfort – as well as signs of surface damage in the cornea (the eye’s outer surface) and conjunctiva (the membrane covering the outer surface and inside eyelids) – can all have a detrimental effect on visual performance.

Although treatments such as artificial tears, anti-inflammatory drops, topical corticosteroids and punctal plugs can alleviate symptoms, there can be downsides to each. Artificial tears provide only short-term relief, for example, and topical corticosteroids may have ocular side effects.

Study Backs Fatty Acids, Antioxidants for Dry Eye

Because of these issues, researchers are constantly seeking new ways to treat and manage this condition. The omega-6 fatty acid GLA complemented by the omega-3s EPA and DHA, have shown promise in addressing signs and symptoms of dry eye in some studies. Now, researchers report that a unique blend of fatty acids, antioxidants and nutrient co-factors can meaningfully improve moderate to severe dry eye.

Conducted at Baylor College of Medicine and Virginia Eye Consultants, this randomized, placebo-controlled, double-masked trial examined the effects of a specialized supplement (HydroEye®, ScienceBased Health) on symptoms, signs and other measures in 38 post-menopausal women with moderate to severe dry eye1. Study participants were randomly assigned to receive the nutritional supplement or a placebo (2 softgels twice daily), and were evaluated over a 6-month period.

The results show that women in the supplement group had significant improvement in dry eye irritation symptoms, a smoother corneal surface and lower levels of inflammation than placebo-takers.

Symptoms: Symptoms were assessed using the ocular surface disease index (OSDI), a validated questionnaire that evaluates severity of eye discomfort. The OSDI score began to improve early on with supplementation, and progressively improved throughout the study period. The Improvement in scores reached significance by 3 months, and symptoms were significantly improved over placebo at 6 months.

Inflammation: Inflammation is a hallmark of dry eye. It was assessed in this study by two inflammatory biomarkers (HLA-DR and CD11c). Inflammation was held at bay in the supplement group with no further progression, while it actually worsened significantly in placebo-takers. Inflammation levels were significantly lower in the supplement vs. placebo groups at the study’s end.

Corneal Smoothness: Corneal topography is an imaging technique for mapping the surface curvature of the cornea. Since the cornea is normally responsible for some 70% of the eye's focusing power, its topography is important in determining quality of vision and corneal health. Measurements called topographic corneal regularity indexes were assessed in study participants as measures of corneal smoothness. These indexes have been reported to increase in dry eye. After 6 months, the supplement group maintained corneal smoothness, while the corneal surface became more irregular in placebo-takers.

According to investigator Stephen Pflugfelder, MD, “HydroEye clearly had a positive impact on these patients with moderate to severe dry eye. While this trial studied post-menopausal women, we think the benefits of HydroEye should apply to other populations suffering from dry eye since inflammation is believed to be a common thread in dry eye”.

To learn more about the study, visit:


  1. Sheppard JD, et al. Long-term supplementation with n-6 and n-3 PUFAs improves moderate-to-severe Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca: A randomized double-blind clinical trial. Cornea 0:18, ePub ahead of print July, 2013.
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