Keep an eye out for omega-3’s
Sometime miracles happen — other times they need a little helping hand. Three months ago an elderly gentleman presented at our office for what could have been the last eye exam of his life. Diagnosed with chronic heart failure, Edward had been given an increasingly short time to live and was gradually losing the will to fight the good fight. His knees were arthritic, his energy levels were abysmal, his heart was failing and his eyes were constantly streaming tears down his cheeks. Edward was on the verge of giving up and as an eye care provider what could we do, right?
Well, there was one problem on that list that we could address. We didn’t need to leave Edwards’ eyes in such an uncomfortable state. New technology provides some hope in treating dry eye that persists despite a rigorous care regime with artificial tears and lid hygiene.
The answer comes from a recent change in our understating of omega-3’s and how this common nutrient is capable of doing some uncommon things.
Not all omega-3’s are created equal — some have very little dietary benefit, while others can actually be counterproductive and add further stress to the system. Fortunately, recent studies have shown a medium-chained omega-3 called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) has a high level of anti-inflammatory action and with proper application can bring dry or watery eye under control. The trick is to have the right formulation and the correct dosing. Most dietary omega supplements are a mixture of various fish and/or plant extracts missing the mark of therapeutic concentrations and active ingredients. Omega-3’s can also be fragile and may be at risk of damage during the refinement process making the supplement provide little effect at best, or unwanted side effects at worst. Many over the counter vitamin supplements miss the mark even though they are labeled and appear to have the appropriate concentrations. Finding a good source is essential.
With a little encouragement and a lot of heart, our team did their best to make Edward and his eyes more comfortable. We started him on the Dry Eye Omega Benefits® from ‘Physician Recommended Nutriceuticals’ which is a 3:1 formulation of EPA/DHA in the therapeutic dose of 2.1g per day with the intent to follow up in a few months to monitor progress.
Three months later Edward walked in. He waved his greeting with a big smile and it was noticeable that he no longer was walking stiffly relying on his walker. Since starting the omega-3 product Edward had been noticing an ever increasing level of comfort in his joints and was able to walk with greater ease. In fact, he had started exercising again — it had been years. He was excited to be able to walk with his wife, visit his grand-kids and just come in to see us without needing assistance. His smile was infectious.
The combination of exercise and the anti-inflammatory action of the EPA was having a profound effect on Edward and his progressively failing heart. The changes shocked his cardiologist. What had been a losing battle with Edward taking six medications trying to prop up his failing system had done a complete 180. His most recent test of cardiac function showed an unbelievable 30% increase. That’s right, an increase! We were all stunned. For the first time in years, the doctor had good news and has removed one of the six medications. In fact, in a short while they will be removing another.
Edward tried to find words to express his gratitude. The moment needed few. Who knew a simple treatment for dry eye would lead to something so amazing?
Although, more study is required to find the correlation between clinical nutrition and a result like this, there is no doubt it was part of the puzzle. Oh, as for the eyes tearing? With a quiet smile, eyes twinkling, he mentions it has happened only once in the past month — while holding his recently born grandson. Your eye care professional can have a profound effect on more than just your eyes!