Common treatments for dry eyes include over-the-counter eye drops and anti-inflammatory drugs. But some people turn to alternative remedies like fish oil for relief.

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary for healthy eye development, and feature several other benefits. Keep reading to learn how fish oil can help treat your dry eyes.

Fresh tears spread across your eyes each time you blink. They’re essential to lubricating the eyes so you can see clearly. They also help clear away debris.

Dry eyes can occur if you don’t have enough tears, or the tears lack the right balance of water, oil, and mucus to spread evenly without evaporating too quickly.

Dry eyes can burn, sting, or feel scratchy or irritated. They can result in blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and eventually damage to the eye. The causes can include age, inflammation, diabetes, and certain medications.

So how can fish oil help?

Fish oil is made by extracting two types of omega-3 fatty acids from the skin of oily fish like mackerel or salmon. These omega-3 fatty acids are called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are important for several functions in the body. DHA and EPA are part of every cell in the human body. They’re also the building blocks of important chemical regulators.

These omega-3s may help improve the eye’s production of oil for tears while also reducing inflammation around the eye.

When you hear the term “fish oil,” you might picture a little yellow gel capsule or liquid available over the counter at most drugstores.

Supplements are certainly one way to add fish oil to your diet. Yet some researchers believe that food should be your main source for omega-3 fatty acids. You can get them by eating fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, and mackerel.

The American Heart Association recommends getting at least two servings of fish per week. If you eat fish on a weekly basis, you probably get enough fish oil in your diet. Getting a steady amount of omega-3 fatty acids is the important thing.

You can also find these fatty acids in other foods like walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds.

Not all omega-3s are equal. While foods like flax seeds do contain omega-3s, they’re a different kind called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

The body can convert ALA into needed EPA and DHA, but this process is not very efficient: Less than 15 percent of ALA makes the conversion.

This means it’s much easier to get a decent amount of EPA and DHA from a marine source rather than a plant source. Notably, people who don’t consume fish may turn to algae-based alternatives.

Benefits

  • Studies suggest that the omega-3s in fish oil may help treat dry eyes because of their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Omega-3s can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Omega-3s may also help manage your triglyceride levels.
Healthline

Taking in a sufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids has a host of benefits, including a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids also help manage your triglyceride levels and may slow the progression of depression and other mental illnesses.

There are also some reported benefits for people who have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Several studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in treating dry eyes because of their benefits in relieving symptoms. A 2016 study found significant improvements within 6 months.

Risks

  • One study claims that certain fatty acids may cause prostate cancer.
  • Some studies suggest that fish oil isn’t beneficial for heart health.
  • Researchers have mixed opinions about the benefits of fish oil.
Healthline

Some controversy exists over the true benefits of fish oil and the risks that it has. One study claims that certain fatty acids may cause prostate cancer, but other research has not affirmed this link to cancer.

Similarly, research to suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil reduce the risk of stroke or sudden death has so far not proven consistent.

Since the research is mixed, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking fish oil.

The World Health Organization suggests that adults get 200 to 500 milligrams (mg) of DHA and EPA per day.

Some studies have looked at the effect of 360 mg of EPA and 240 mg of DHA taken daily, with positive results for dry eyes and few side effects. Others have gone up to double that amount or more.

But there is little evidence that a much higher daily dose — 2,000 mg of EPA and 1,000 mg of DHA — improves results.

And there are indications that too much of a good thing is possible, as too much fish oil may lead to a greater chance of bleeding and other problems.

In general, fish oil may have some benefits for dry eyes. But you don’t have to take fish oil supplements to get omega-3 fatty acids. The best way is to eat a healthy diet that includes at least two servings of fish per week.

You should also talk to your doctor about other treatments for dry eyes, such as prescription medications, eye drops, and lifestyle changes.