Dry Eye Syndrome Responds to Sea Buckthorn Treatment
The oil from sea buckthorn, a plant that grows in the mountains of China and Russia, and also in Canada, can reduce symptoms of dry eye syndrome. Scientists from the University of Turku report that sea buckthorn oil also improved symptoms for people who wear contact lens.
Dry eye syndrome, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition in which the eyes to nod produce enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. This leaves the eyes dry, burning, red, irritated, and susceptible to inflammation.
Dry eye syndrome affects millions of people in the United States and many millions more around the world. The Finnish authors of this new study report that up to 30 percent of people age 50 and older may experience dry eye syndrome.
Two studies from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that among older women, dry eye syndrome leading to a clinical diagnosis or severe symptoms affects more than 3.2 million middle-aged and older women in the United States. Among men, the number is estimated to be lower: more than 4 percent of men 50 years and older, or 1.68 million.
In the Finnish study, the scientists enrolled 86 individuals ages 20 to 70 who had symptoms of dry eye syndrome. During the double-blind, randomized, parallel trial, the participants received either 2 g of sea buckthorn oil or placebo oil daily for three months from fall to winter, a time of year especially hard on the eyes.
Although all the participants experienced an increase in the concentration of water that evaporated from their eyes, those who took sea buckthorn had a significantly smaller increase. In addition, redness and burning tended to be lower in individuals who took sea buckthorn.
The scientists noted that the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in sea buckthorn oil are the basis for its healing properties. The oil is also rich in vitamin E, which “may protect the eye from oxidative damage leading to activation of inflammatory cascades.”
Dye eye is part of the natural aging process, according to the American Optometric Association. Women are more likely to develop dry eyes associated with hormonal changes during pregnancy, use of oral contraceptives, and menopause. Use of certain medications (e.g., antihistamines, antidepressants, decongestants, antihypertensives), medical conditions (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid conditions, diabetes), environmental factors (e.g., smoke, pollutants, wind, cold weather, staring at a computer screen), and contact lens use are all possible causes of dry eye syndrome.
Treatment of dry eye syndrome can include use of over-the-counter artificial tear solutions, use of prescription eye drops that help increase tear production, omega-3 fatty acid supplements, prescription eye ointments and eyelid cleaners, and blocking the tear ducts with tiny plugs that can be removed, if necessary.
The authors believe “further studies should investigate the effects of sea buckthorn oil on more defined populations” while also trying to uncover the mechanisms of the oil’s effects. For now, sea buckthorn oil seems to be a reasonable treatment for dry eye syndrome.
American Optometric Association
Larmo PS et al. Journal of Nutrition 2010, published online ahead of print: DOI:10.3945/nj.109.118901
Schaumberg DA et al. American Journal of Ophthalmology 2003 Aug; 136(2): 318-26
Schaumberg DA et al. Archives of Ophthalmology 2009 Jun; 127(6): 763-68
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