Are vitamin A drops a viable treatment for dry eye?

We have all experienced that irritating sensation of dry, gritty eyes in our lives. However, when our bodies lose the ability to consistently produce enough tears to protect the eye, dry eye syndrome is diagnosed.

Common symptoms include redness, pain, continuous periods of watery eyes followed by very dry eyes, blurred vision, and a sensation of debris in the eye. About 16.4 million people in the United States live with dry eye; and this number continues to rise.

Why is it so common?

Researchers believe the use of contact lenses and excessive use of computers and mobile devices are primary contributors to this disorder. Furthermore, women are more likely to develop dry eye then men, and the risk increases with age.

Typical management involves medicated eye drops, artificial tear drops, tear duct plugs, and regular eye exams. In addition, new research suggests vitamin A eye drops may offer a natural treatment option for those with dry eye.

Vitamin A and eye health at a glance

Vitamin A is a powerful nutrient that is crucial for ensuring a wide range of bodily systems are functioning properly. It also helps decrease inflammation, reduce free radicals, and improve immune system health.

Perhaps the most widely recognized roles of vitamin A is in eyesight and function. For example, vitamin A is a precursor of rhodopsin, which is found in rods within the retina of our eye to help us to see at night.

So, when vitamin A levels become depleted in the body, the rod cells inside the eye are unable to undergo their transformation quickly enough to adjust to new levels of light. This causes a condition called night blindness.  

Another consequence of vitamin A deficiency is decreased tear production. This can lead to a host of eye complications including:

  • dry eye syndrome
  • corneal ulcers and scarring
  • Retinopathy
  • And more

Because vitamin A (in the form of retinol palmitate) has shown to improve hyaluronic acid and mucin levels, two important components in eye lubrication, researchers theorize it may help treat dry eye syndrome.

Study on vitamin A and dry eye

In an effort to determine whether vitamin A eye drops offer a viable, low-cost treatment option for dry eye, researchers conducted a randomized, double blinded, placebo controlled trial. A total of 66 participants with dry eye were randomly assigned to either receive the retinol palmitate eye drop solution (n=33) or the the placebo eye drop solution (n=33).

All participants ceased all current eye drop regimens for two weeks prior to beginning the treatment.  Each drop of retinol palmitate solution contained 500 IU/ml of vitamin A. The participants in both groups placed one drop of the solution in each eye six times a day for a period of four weeks.

Research findings

The findings from this study are promising. For example, researchers discovered that the treatment group experienced a significant improvement in corneal and conjunctival damage after two and four weeks (p < 0.05 & p < 0.01, respectively). In addition, the treatment group experienced significantly reduced blurred vision at one and two weeks (p < 0.01 & p < 0.05, respectively). The patient’s tolerated the treatment well, and no significant side effects occurred in any of the patients.

Final thoughts

This study suggests vitamin A eye drops offer a safe, cost-effective alternative to treat dry eye syndrome. In addition, research is consistently showing a positive impact on tear production, inflammation and both corneal and conjunctival wound healing.

Source

Toshida, H. et al. Efficacy and safety of retinol palmitate ophthalmic solution in the treatment of dry eye: a Japanese phase ii clinical trial. Drug Design, Development and Therapy. 2017.

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