'Eye Health' Supplements: Do the Benefits Justify the Cost?

Brianne N. Hobbs, OD


October 24, 2018

In This Article

Dry Eye Disease

The Trials

The Tear Film & Ocular Surface Society International Dry Eye Workshop II (TFOS DEWS II) is a collaboration of 150 dry eye experts from 23 different countries that analyzed thousands of articles on dry eye disease to generate the comprehensive report, which provides the latest summary on the definition, classification, diagnosis, pathophysiology, and impact of dry eye disease, in addition to providing evidence-based clinical recommendations.[16] An abundance of trials focus on dry eye disease, but TFOS DEWS II provides the most robust summary of the available evidence.

Completed after the publication of TFOS DEWS II, the Dry Eye Assessment and Management Study (DREAM) investigated the impact of omega-3 on the signs and symptoms of dry eye.[17]

The Results

  • Systemic dehydration may contribute to the severity of dry eye by increasing tear osmolarity.[16]

  • Altering certain environmental factors (eg, humidity) can impact dry eye disease.[16]

  • In DREAM, omega-3 supplements were no better than the placebo olive oil in decreasing the signs and symptoms of dry eye.[17] Other trials investigating essential fatty acids have been too short to establish a consensus.

  • Antioxidant supplementation has shown some promise in the treatment of dry eye, but the trials have been relatively brief.[16]

The Conversation

  • Dry eye disease is often multifactorial, and determining whether supplements are helpful is difficult.

  • Increasing hydration is a simple modification that may decrease symptoms.

  • The use of omega-3 supplements may have benefits, but trial results have been mixed.

  • Increasing humidity is an easy intervention that may increase ocular comfort.

  • Alcohol consumption may worsen the signs and symptoms of dry eye.[18].

A Simple Strategy Is Often Best

While the evidence on many supplements is limited and conflicting, it is clear that no superfood prevents the development of such ocular conditions as AMD, cataracts, and dry eye disease. Until more rigorous evidence is available, sometimes the simplest strategies are the best. Eat healthy foods, wear sunglasses, drink water, and avoid smoking—these straightforward lifestyle modifications are recommended nearly ubiquitously in healthcare, and should continue to be, as there is evidence to support them.

Follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: