Blepharitis, And Other Eye Conditions- How Dietary Changes and Supplements Can Help

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids that causes watery and red eyes, a burning, unpleasant sensation, itchiness, swollen eyelids, blurred vision, frothy tears, and even loss of eyelashes. Your eyelids can be stuck shut in the morning due to the crusting on your eyelashes or the lids’ edges. 

It is estimated that one in every twenty people who see their doctor for an eye problem have blepharitis. Fortunately, it is not usually too serious. However, it can feel very uncomfortable, especially if you’re a contact lens wearer, and it tends to recur. Blepharitis mostly develops in middle-aged people, but it can develop at any age, including in children. Aside from the already mentioned uncomfortable and painful symptoms, some patients with blepharitis also find their eyes are more sensitive to light.

Types of Blepharitis

There are two types of blepharitis, anterior and posterior.

  • Anterior blepharitis can be caused by a bacterial infection (staphylococcus) or a skin condition (seborrheic dermatitis). You can recognize this type when the outside front edge of your eyelids, at the base of your eyelashes, is affected.
  • Posterior blepharitis happens when glands on the inside edge of your eyelids are affected. These glands, called meibomian glands, can become irritated and inflamed, they can produce too much meibum (an oily substance that covers and protects the surface of the eye), and block them.

Some patients can even be affected by both types of blepharitis simultaneously, which doctors call combination blepharitis. Fortunately, both types are not contagious.

Treatment

Blepharitis can often be managed by practicing good eye hygiene, but if the symptoms worsen, then the best thing is to visit your doctor for an examination. If blepharitis is caused by a bacterial infection, then it should be treated with antibiotics, either in cream, drop, ointment, or tablet form. Blepharitis can also cause other health problems, such as dry eye syndrome, styes (infected eyelash root), conjunctivitis, conjunctival phlyctenules (small, yellow-white lumps in the lower part of your eye), meibomian cysts, keratitis (inflammation of the cornea), and eyelash and eyelid damage. [1]

Dietary Changes Can Be Of Help

Adjusting your diet to ensure it includes all the crucial and necessary nutrients for good eye health is essential. 

Since oxidation and inflammation are implicated in the etiology of these many eye diseases, antioxidant rich foods and anti-inflammatory foods will provide benefit in decreasing the risk of eye disease. The eye has a particularly high metabolic rate so it needs higher antioxidant protection. 

Nutrients of particular benefit include vitamins C and E, and the carotenoids ?-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin act as antioxidants, and limit eye oxidative damage by absorbing incoming blue light and/or quenching reactive oxygen species.

The eye is highly concentrated in fatty acids, therefore omega-3 fatty acids are also very important. Zinc is also of major importance as it is needed for optimal metabolism in the eye, and plays important roles in antioxidant and immune function.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) also contributes to the maintenance of normal vision and healthy eyes.

For vitamin A as betacarotene a recommended dose involves 15 mg per day that can be taken through sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots cooked and raw, winter squash, peppers, kale, and spinach.

For vitamin C a recommended dose involves 450 mg per day that can be taken through blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raw broccoli, oranges and orange juice, grapefruit juice and brussel sprouts.

For vitamin E a recommended dose involves 400IU per day that can be taken through almonds, peanuts, wheat-germ and sunflower seeds.

For zinc a recommended dose involves 15 mg per day as zinc picolinate, that can be taken through chickpeas, beans, almonds, and cashews.

Please note that zinc absorption is lower in people on vegetarian and vegan diets, therefore, it is recommended that people in these groups consume twice as much as for non-vegetarians.

The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin have no recommended dose and can be taken through spinach, kale, broccoli, sweet corn, peas and brussel sprouts.

For omega 3 fatty acids there is no recommended dose and can be taken through chia and flax seeds, walnuts and fatty fish.

For vitamin B2 a recommended dose involves 10-25 mg per day that can be taken through almonds, mushrooms, sesame seeds, and spinach. [2] 

Overall, an anti-inflammatory healthy diet that provides lots of vitamins, minerals, fibers, and fatty acids is advised. This diet includes:

– Whole grains

– Vegetables 

– Fresh fruits

– Increased water intake

– nuts and seeds

Food and beverages to avoid include:

– saturated and trans fats

– cheese and dairy products

– refined grains and sugar,

– alcohol intake

– fructose, margarine, and processed foods

Supplements That Can Help With Blepharitis

If you think that your vitamins C, E, B2, and carotenoid levels for ?-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are low or your zinc or omega-3 intake is not sufficient through your diet, you should consider taking dietary supplements. A recent clinical trial suggested that omega-3 supplements can be beneficial not just for blepharitis but also for meibomian gland dysfunction.

Cataracts and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is characterized by degenerative changes within the macula, the central area of the retina that is responsible for high-resolution vision, in people aged 55 years or older. Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of severe vision impairment in European-derived populations.

Cataract is defined as any visible opacity within the otherwise clear crystalline lens of the eye.

Oxidation reactions within the lens are thought to be a key factor in this pathogenesis of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, therefore the same recommendations that are beneficial for blepharitis are also very helpful at preventing cataracts and delaying age-related macular degeneration.

Takeaway

All in all, a healthier, antioxidant rich anti inflammatory diet, with supportive supplements when needed, and an overall healthier lifestyle involving smoking cessation, will certainly help you keep blepharitis at bay as well as other eye conditions including cataracts and . These guidelines will also help you maintain good eye health.

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References:

[1] Mr Shabbir Mohamed. Why it’s important to treat blepharitis early on. Top Doctors United Kingdom, 2020 March 09.

[2] MD Marian S. Macsai. The Role of Omega-3 Dietary Supplementation in Blepharitis and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (An AOS Thesis). Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 2008 Dec; 106: 336–356.

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