Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Eye Health Center

Font Size

Flaxseed Oil Supplements May Help Dry Eyes

Researchers Say High Omega-3 Content of Flaxseed Oil Improves Symptoms of Dry Eyes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 28, 2011 (Orlando, Fla.) -- High doses of flaxseed oil supplements may improve symptoms of dry eyes.

In a preliminary study, 12 people who worked themselves up to taking 9,000 milligrams per day of flaxseed oil reported substantially less itching, dryness, burning, and eye fatigue after three months.

Also, oily secretions from meibomian glands in their eyelids increased. Failure of these glands to produce or secrete oil produces dry eye symptoms.

The findings were presented here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Softens Secretions

Dry eye syndrome affects about 12 million Americans.

Tears are a combination of water, for moisture; oils, for lubrication; mucus, for even spreading; and antibodies and special proteins, for resistance to infection.

People in the study all had a problem with oil secretions from their meibomian glands.

Study researcher Jack Greiner, DO, PhD, of Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston, believes the average American's high-fat diet is to blame, at least in part. "Fats get thick and can't move out of the oil glands. We believe that due to their high omega-3 fat content, flaxseed oils soften the secretions, so they can flow."

Previous research has linked a diet rich in omega-3 containing fish to a lower risk of dry eyes in women.

Flaxseed Oil Dose Gradually Increased

Not everyone can tolerate 9,000 milligrams a day of flaxseed oil. Some people develop diarrhea and intestinal distress when taking just 1,000 milligrams a day. It would be virtually impossible to get that much flaxseed oil from the diet without supplementation.

In the study, people started out taking three 1,000-milligram capsules per day for two weeks. The dose was gradually increased.

"I think they're on to something here, but not everyone will respond the same way," says Samuel Amstutz, MD, an ophthalmologist at Grene Vision in Wichita, Kan.

Amstutz asks why the researchers didn't test omega-3 fish oil supplements -- which might be easier to tolerate -- against dry eye syndrome.

Greiner says it was simply because he wanted to better control the experiment. It's difficult to know how much fish oil each person is eating in their diet, he says.

Today on WebMD

Woman holding tissue to reddened eye
Learn about causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Simple annoyance or the sign of a problem?
red eyes
Symptoms, triggers, and treatments.
blue eye with contact lens
Tips for wearing and caring.
Understanding Stye
human eye
eye exam timing
vision test
is vision correction surgery for you
high tech contacts
eye drop