Some research links blepharitis (inflammation of your eyelid) to not having enough vitamin D in your diet. Certain fatty acid supplements may help treat symptoms of blepharitis.

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Blepharitis is the medical name for an inflamed eyelid. It usually occurs when you have too much bacteria near the base of your eyelashes. It can also develop if your oil glands get blocked or irritated.

Blepharitis is a common eye condition, especially in people who also have:

Blepharitis can often be due to meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). This is when the oil glands in the outer edges of your eyelids don’t produce enough oil. MGD is the most common cause of dry eye symptoms and affects about 75% of people with chronic blepharitis. As MGD and chronic blepharitis are so closely related, some people use the terms interchangeably.

Some studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to MGD. In this article, we’ll review what researchers have uncovered about the link. We’ll also look at research on how some supplements might help treat symptoms of MGD and blepharitis.

Blepharitis symptoms

Blepharitis can cause symptoms such as:

Research suggests that about 35% of adults in the United States are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increased risk of developing various eye diseases such as:

Vitamin D deficiency may also be linked to an increased risk of MGD and, by extension, an increased risk of blepharitis.

In a 2021 Japanese study, researchers found increased MGD prevalence among people with lower intake of:

Vitamin deficiency and eye health

It doesn’t appear that vitamins other than vitamin D are linked to blepharitis and MGD. Still, other vitamins play an important role in your eye health.

  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A deficiency can cause you to lose your vision. It’s also linked to night blindness, dry eyes, and Bitot’s spots (foamy spots in your eyes). A 2017 study also suggests that vitamin A deficiency could also cause chalazia in children.
  • Vitamin B12: A vitamin B12 deficiency may cause severe dry eyes. Some research also links a lack of vitamin B12 to optic neuritis, or damage to your optic nerve.
  • Vitamin C: According to 2022 research, a vitamin C deficiency (also known as scurvy) can cause dry eyes, yellow eyes, or damage to blood vessels in your eyes. High vitamin C intake may also delay the onset of cataracts.
  • Vitamin E: Not having enough vitamin E can cause problems with your retina. Eye symptoms include difficulty seeing at night and problems with your field of vision.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of three essential fats that play an important role in keeping your eyes, brain, and nerves healthy. They are:

  • eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

DHA makes up about 93% of omega-3s found in your eyes.

Experts hypothesize that the breakdown of omega-3s may suppress inflammation in your eyes and protect against inflammatory conditions such as blepharitis. They also think omega-3s may improve the composition of the oil that your eyelid glands produce.

A few studies have found evidence that omega-3s may help with symptoms of blepharitis, suggesting a link.

Study 1

In a 2021 study from South Korea, researchers found that 8 weeks of a supplement containing 600 mg of EPA and 1,640 mg of DHA per day improved symptoms in people with MGD and mild to moderate dry eyes.

Study 2

In a 2020 review of studies, researchers found evidence that a moderate daily dose of omega-3s may be beneficial for reducing MGD symptoms.

Study 3

In a 2017 study, researchers found that 3 months of ALA supplements at a dosage of 1 g per day was very effective at treating moderate to severe blepharitis and MGD in a small group of 50 people.

If nutrient deficiencies contribute to your blepharitis or other eye conditions, correcting them may improve your eye health.

For example, in a 2020 study, researchers found that oral vitamin D supplements in people with vitamin D deficiency improved the oil production from their meibomian glands.

In the 2021 study from South Korea, omega-3 supplementation improved symptoms in people with MGD and mild to moderate dry eyes.

It’s the stance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that it’s best to try to get your nutrient needs primarily through whole foods. Still, they acknowledge that supplements may help you achieve your nutrient requirements when it’s not possible to meet them otherwise.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most people get enough ALA from their food. But according to a 2019 study, people in the United States consume well below the recommended amounts of EPA and DHA.

While there are no established daily requirements for EPA and DHA, dietary guidelines suggest 8 ounces per week of seafood for nonpregnant adults, equaling about 250 mg per day of DHA and EPA. Most U.S. adults only consume about 90 mg.

The NIH also notes that about 7.8% of U.S. adults opt to take omega-3 supplements. Fish oil is one of the most common options.

While some doctors or healthcare professionals may recommend omega-3s for dry eye symptoms, the support for its use is mixed.

A 2018 study found that people who took omega-3 supplements for a year didn’t show significantly better outcomes than those who took a placebo. A 2022 clinical trial also found no benefit to omega-3 supplements over 5 years in lowering participants’ risk of dry eye disease.

According to the National Eye Institute, the main treatment for blepharitis is regularly cleaning your eyelid and making sure it’s free of crust. You can use water and a gentle cleanser such as baby shampoo to clean your eyelids.

If cleaning your eyelids alone doesn’t resolve your symptoms, a doctor may recommend:

  • artificial tears to reduce eye dryness
  • steroid eye drops to lower inflammation
  • antibiotic eye drops, pills, or ointments to kill bacteria
  • treatments for underlying conditions such as rosacea

Blepharitis is inflammation of your eyelid. It’s usually due to the buildup of bacteria on your eyelid near your eyelashes. Chronic blepharitis is often due to MGD, a problem with your meibomian glands.

A vitamin D deficiency may increase your risk of MGD and blepharitis. Supplementing your diet with certain omega-3 fatty acids may help with MGD symptoms, but research is mixed.

Most of the time, you can treat blepharitis by cleaning your eyelids regularly. For persistent blepharitis, a doctor may recommend prescription eye drops or medications.