Do Supplements Really Work?
Last updated: November 2022
Do supplements really work in improving dry eye? I often find myself asking this question, as I feel like I’ve tried almost every supplement out there, many of which are expensive. I have read a myriad of research and have perused several forum discussions in which other dry eye sufferers tell what has worked for them.
In exploring different supplements, I have come to two conclusions: Results tend to be individual, and supplements are just as the name suggests, supplemental to first-line treatments. Still, I will share which ones I have tried, the research behind them, and my individual results.
The first supplement I tried was vitamin D. This was at the beginning of my dry eye journey when my eyes were at their worst. My mom, who is a nurse, found and sent me an article examining a possible relationship between vitamin D deficiency and dry eyes.3
I started cleaning up my diet around the same time that I started taking vitamin D, and I did notice a slight improvement in my dry eye symptoms, but this could have been due to my diet change. A couple of months later, at my yearly visit with my gynecologist, I had my doctor check for vitamin D deficiency in my bloodwork. My level was within normal range, so I eventually discontinued using this singular vitamin and opted for a multivitamin instead.
After suspecting that one of my issues might be evaporative dry eye, the first dry eye specialist that I saw recommended a couple of different Omega-3 supplements, PRN De3 Dry Eye Omega Benefits and HydroEye Softgels Dry Eye Relief. I ordered both of these online, and they are pricey. I have also used less expensive fish oil supplements from my local grocery store, but I worried about the potency and purity of these. Some of my favorite dietitians and functional medicine practitioners recommend using high-potency supplements that have been third-party tested.
Using Omega-3 from fish oil is the most common recommendation I see on online forums for dry eye. However, I did not notice any substantial benefit from using any of them, and I tried each for at least two months. As of my writing this, I am taking High Purity Fish Oil Max DHA by Jarrow Formulas that is highly concentrated in Omega-3’s. I chose this one because it is mid-range in price, and even though I don’t see a substantial difference, I am trying to support my eyes in every way possible.
That got me thinking about whether or not multivitamins are even useful. In my research, I came across several publications with similar conclusions, one stating that multivitamins don't reduce a person's risk for conditions such as cancer or heart disease. Now, these same studies do state that vitamins can be beneficial for certain populations, such as pregnant women. Some research has also suggested that higher intakes of antioxidants or zinc may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.1,2
The conclusion that I have made from my own research and trial and error is, in short, similar to what the director of the Johns Hopkins Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research, Larry Appel, M.D., states: nutrition recommendations (such as eating a healthy diet and reducing saturated fat) have more evidence of benefits than multivitamins in overall health and helping prevent chronic diseases.1
What I focus on
Consequently, while I do still use some supplements, I try to focus most of my resources on eating a healthy diet. I invest most of my money on well-sourced, nutrient-dense foods and dry eye treatments that have proven efficacious over a magic pill – because there isn’t one.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t keep trying different things along the way. In fact, as of my writing this, I was trying MaquiBright after reading a research study that suggested potential dry eye benefits. As for my results, the verdict is still out.
Have you tried any supplements for your dry eyes? If so, what were your results?
Has having dry eye helped you better advocate for yourself?