08 July, 2011
Can Vitamins Increase Risk for Dry Eyes?
Lack of tears in your eyes causes dry eyes. Proteins, minerals and vitamins are all critical for making tears, which means that a lack of vitamins could increase your risk for developing dry eyes. While almost all vitamins have roles to play, vitamin A, folate and vitamin B-6 are especially important.
Benefits of Tears
Tears moisturize your eyes and protect them from invading bacteria. They wash away dust and deliver oxygen and nutrients to the cornea. Tears also contain antibodies that prevent infection.
Your eyesight depends on tears. They create a coating over the eyes called a tear film, which is made from a combination of oil, water and mucus. This film ensures normal vision by focusing light as it enters your eyes.
When you don’t produce enough tears, or when they’re not the right mix of water, oil and mucus, you have a condition called dry eye. Dry eyes cause different symptoms, from burning, pain, redness and feeling like something is in the eye, to blurred vision, eye fatigue and uncomfortable contact lenses.
Vitamin A is vital for night vision, but it also affects tears. Lack of vitamin A damages the tear film. A prolonged deficiency causes severe dry eye, which can lead to eye ulcers, scarring and blindness, reports the Linus Pauling Institute.
Women should consume 700 micrograms of vitamin A daily, while men need 900 micrograms, recommends the Institute of Medicine. Milk, eggs and beef liver are rich sources of vitamin A in the form of retinol, which can become toxic if you consume more than 3,000 micrograms.
If you get your daily vitamin A from carotenoids in fruits and veggies, you don’t have to worry about toxicity. Some of the best sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe, broccoli, spinach and other leafy greens.
Vitamin B-6 can help protect the tear film, especially if it’s consumed at the same time as protein, according to Optometric Management. Together with vitamins A and C, vitamin B-6 ensures your eyes make enough tears.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B-6 is 1.3 milligrams daily. Vitamin B-6 is found in a variety of foods, but some of the top sources are salmon, light meat chicken and turkey, avocados, baked russet potatoes, and bananas. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with vitamin B-6.
Folate helps synthesize proteins and DNA, which makes it essential for building and repairing new cells. In this role, it’s a crucial nutrient for mucous membranes in the eyes, as well as tear glands and tear ducts.
Green leafy vegetables are rich sources of folate. You’ll also get it from beans, lentils, and citrus fruits and juices. Cereals, pasta, rice and bread are good choices because they’re fortified with folate in the form of folic acid.
While getting nutrients from whole foods is always preferred, your body absorbs more of the nutrient when you consume the supplemental form, folic acid. Men and women should get 400 micrograms of folate daily.
- Merck Manual: Protective Features of the Eyes
- Indiana University Bloomington: Use of Retroillumination to Visualize Optical Aberrations Caused by Tear Film Break-Up
- National Eye Institute: Facts About Dry Eye
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin A
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin B6
- Experimental Eye Research: Diet, Nutraceuticals and the Tear Film
- Nutritional Optometry: What You Eat and Drink, and Wearing Contact Lenses
- Linus Pauling Institute: Folate
- Branislav Ostojic/Hemera/Getty Images