The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Taking Krill Oil Help Your Dry Eyes?

One reader was thrilled to discover that taking krill oil at her eye doctor's suggestion eased her dry eye symptoms significantly.

Is there any value in taking supplements? Doctors have been debating this question for years. While many specialties have been extremely skeptical about the value of dietary supplements, ophthalmologists overall have been more receptive. One reader found that an eye doctor’s recommendation on taking krill oil made a big difference.

Does Taking Krill Oil Make Sense?

Q. I have had dry eyes for years and tried all sorts of artificial tear products. When I went for my most recent eye exam, I mentioned this to the doctor. She did some tests in darkness with a direct light. She said my tears were – in my words – more globby, I believe, and therefore not coating the surface of my eye correctly.

As a result, she suggested I take oral krill oil. I purchased a supplement, and guess what? It works! I hardly need to use eye drops at all.

Viscous Tears Don’t Work Well:

A. When the tears become too viscous, as yours had, they may not do the job of protecting the cornea as they should. A study in people with type 2 diabetes and dry eye disorder found that omega-3 fatty acids improve the tear film and help the surface of the eye (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Jan. 2017). 

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Krill oil is derived from tiny marine creatures that are a great source of these omega-3 fats. A study in the journal Ophthalmology (Jan. 2017) found that taking krill oil improved patients’ symptoms of dry eye disease. The krill oil appeared to be slightly more effective than fish oil for these study volunteers.

Is Swallowing Fish Oil Less Effective Than Taking Krill Oil?

In contrast, a relatively large clinical trial comparing omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil to placebo found no benefit for dry eye (New England Journal of Medicine, May 3, 2018). In this study, the investigators used olive oil as the placebo. However, in a review published at nearly the same time, Italian ophthalmologists concluded that omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in krill oil could help symptoms of several eye conditions including dry eye (Nutrients, May 24, 2018).

Should you be taking krill oil for your dry eyes? It makes sense to ask your eye doctor if this would be helpful. Also check with your primary care provider and your pharmacist to learn whether omega-3 fatty acids would interact with any of your other medications.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Georgakopoulos, CD, et al, "Effect of omega-3 fatty acids dietary supplement on ocular surface and tear film in diabetic patients with dry eye." Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Jan. 2017. DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2016.1170643
  • Deinema, LA, et al, "A randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled clinical trial of two forms of omega-3 supplements for treating dry eye disease." Ophthalmology, Jan. 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2016.09.023
  • Dry Eye Assessment and Management Study Research Group, et al, "n-3 fatty acid supplementation for the treatment of dry eye disease." New England Journal of Medicine, May 3, 2018. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1709691
  • Sacca, SC, et al, "The eye, oxidative damage and polyunsaturated fatty acids." Nutrients, May 24, 2018. DOI: 10.3390/nu10060668
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I have dry eye and tried flax seed oil to no avail. I have never had any success with any ‘natural’ substance for any health condition. I wonder a lot about the placebo effect in people who claim success.

Farming of krill removes about one-twentieth of 1% of the world’s krill. What is the evidence that this is having a significant impact on whales?

Nowhere has anyone in this thread, or the article, given a dosage! What was the dosage used in the quoted studies? How much have the commenters used successfully?

After reading this article, I went out and purchased krill oil because my eyes at times burn so badly that multiple hot wash cloth wipes didn’t soothe the burn. Nor did several doses of eye drops for dry eyes. Only thing that helped was shutting my eyes and going to sleep. Happy to say that within four days of krill oil (I also take fish oil supplements), I no longer need that hot wash cloth. And I’m not using as many eye drops either. The burn has all but gone. Once again The People’s Pharmacy has helped me and I am grateful!

I was recently diagnosed with glaucoma and had to start using drops to reduce eye pressure. The drops made my eyes very dry. My ophthalmologist recommended Flaxseed Oil supplements. Flaxseed Oil is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Do you think Omega-3 sourced from Algae is the same? Or is there a connection to Krill?

So what do pharmacists and doctors know about diet and nutrition when it comes to health care? Not much. See a proper integrative doctor or nutritionist, and they will help you.

RE: toothpaste and dry mouth.
My problem is excessive staining on my teeth. For the past four months I have been brushing with baking soda and my dentist has been amazed at its effectiveness. The taste of just baking soda has been improved by putting a dab of toothpaste on my brush then dipping it in the baking soda. In addition to the improvement of the staining, my teeth are noticeably whiter!

I appreciate the problem of dry eyes. I am distressed that there is now “farming” of the krill out of the ocean. This really has an impact on whales and other creatures that feed exclusively on krill. Whales are already under stress from food and environment destruction. It would help if you would mention this when promoting these products. I would hope it would make people think twice prior to using this and creating a demand for the product.
I do enjoy your show now on my computer since moving from Chapel Hill.
Thank You,
Karen Hattman

I have an eye disease called keratoconus, and dry eyes usually result from this condition. I take krill oil along with astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin and have no issues with dry eyes whatsoever.

My dr suggested an OTC med for dry eyes. However, I had dry eyes and dry mouth (which caused my teeth to separate). I do take Krill oil, good for lubricating joints. After I did some research of toxic chemicals in toothpaste and mouthwash, through the process of elimination I found a toothpaste that worked. Later I found a tooth powder that worked even better!! Now my mouth is no longer dry. As far as the krill oil – it helps to some degree but not enough to stop using the eye drops.

I had a dry eye (droopy eye from car accident). Started taking Lutein with Zeaxanthin and no more problems.

I will have to try this . My eyes are so dry that I have to get lacrimal plugs every three months or so. Recently it seems like I am reacting to the plugs with mild itching at the site. Taking moisturizing eye drops does not seem to help but eating fish frequently does. I just dislike fish. So, therefore, the Krill oil sounds like a good idea!

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