Ask The Herb Lady

With Cathy Schram

Advice for Dry Eye Syndrome

Q: I have dry eye syndrome. What causes this and are there any supplements that may help this condition?

A: Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a very common problem, particularly among peri and post-menopausal women. The eyes have ocular layers that make up the tear film. There are three different layers in the tear film. Each of these layers needs nutrition to remain healthy. Vitamins and minerals promote structure and function. The layers are as follows:

Mucin – This layer touches the cornea and nourishes the front of the eye. It anchors the tear film and keeps the eye moist. Vitamin A is essential in the development of the mucin of the tear film.

Aqueous – This is the middle layer that provides moisture, oxygen and nutrients to the cornea, such as zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, E, B6 and niacin.

Lipid – This layer is our front line of defense against infection, solar radiation and injury to the outside of the ocular surface. It keeps tears from evaporating and provides a smooth film over the cornea when we blink. Most cases of DES involve this layer. Since this is the oily layer, it needs essential fatty acids. This would include omega-3 from fish oils, flax and/or algae, and omega-6 from evening primrose oil, borage oil or black currant seed oil.

There are many causes of DES, such as smoking, inflammation and poor diet. Even those who have had their gall bladder removed may suffer from DES due to diminished fat processing. This can be remedied by taking a digestive enzyme to break down the fat you consume.

So, one of the most effective treatments for DES is to use a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids with a blend of vitamins, A, D, E and C and the minerals magnesium and zinc.

This herb information is for health education purposes only. It is not intended to replace the services of licensed health practitioners. Consult with a physician for any condition that requires professional care.

Do you have questions about herbs or vitamins? Send them to Cathy Schram, CNHP and Certified Herbalist. Write to: Herbs & More, 16021 Manchester Rd., Ellisville, MO 63011.