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Flaxseed For Dry Eyes

Flaxseed For Dry Eyes

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With LASIK we now know that eyes are going to be a little dry for one to three months after having the procedure performed. When I started performing the procedure in January 1995 we didn't know this, but over time we have figured out that it affects almost all patients to varying degrees. Therefore, as part of the initial examination, most ophthalmologists are now checking their patients for dry eye.

A lot of the people who had LASIK in the first few years it was available were contact lens wearers who, because of dry eyes, were forced to start wearing glasses. The majority of these people, despite their dry eyes, experienced very successful LASIK. In some patients, however, the dryness contributed to slower healing and postoperative irritation, with a gritty sandy feeling for days, occasionally weeks, and in rare instances, for months.

Having learned this the hard way, many ophthalmologists are now proactive and aggressively address postoperative dryness with all of their LASIK patients. The first step is educating them on how they can reduce the risk of postoperative dryness. A lot of patients simply do not drink enough water. Even worse, they may drink coffee, which acts as a diuretic and dehydrates them even further. Therefore, I ask my patients to drink at least five to six glasses of water per day starting at least one day before surgery and for several weeks thereafter. In addition, I ask all of my LASIK patients to begin using a special artificial tear one to two days before their procedure and for a few weeks following their procedure. Because some people sleep with their eyes partially open, I also recommend that all of my patients put a little bead of soothing gel in their eye before they go to bed starting the night before their procedure. Gels designed for this purpose are more patient friendly these days and, unlike some earlier gels or ointments, do not cause blurry vision.

My most successful discovery has been the use of the Omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed oil capsules. These fatty acids are also found in fish oil but the flaxseed is a little more pleasant and probably doesn't have the contaminants in it that fish oil might. Omega-3 fatty acids, otherwise known as ‘essential fatty acids,' are not made by the body, but every cell in the body uses them. I can very honestly tell my patients that this medication is good not only for dry eye but also for the heart, for lowering bad cholesterol, for treating menopause, breast and prostate cancer, the skin, hair, and even for assisting in the brain development of their children. In addition, I have personally used it to treat my bad knee. Most of the doctors and staff I work with take flaxseed on an ongoing basis.

Flaxseed can be purchased in capsules, oil, or seed form at most health food stores. We start our patients on 2000 mg of flaxseed a few days before their LASIK procedure, and encourage them to take it for several weeks afterwards. It is important to grind the seeds (in a coffee grinder) before digesting them. In terms of complications, some people have looser than normal stools after taking flaxseed. Overall, however, flaxseed/Omega-3s have been pretty fantastic for my dry eye and LASIK patients.

Never forget LASIK is not minor surgery; it's real surgery on your eyes. Taking the time to gather little bits of insight (such as the ones we've just discussed) from your doctor is key to the success of your LASIK procedure. LASIK should not be treated as a commodity. You don't want a fly-in, fly-out doctor working for a ‘business first' corporation performing your surgery. What you want is an ophthalmologist who is willing to teach you what he or she has learned along the way. It's not the arrow or the laser that makes you happy, but the archer that is shooting it.

Maurice E. John, M.D., is Founder and Medical Director of the John-Kenyon Eye Center. For additional information on dry eyes or other eye conditions we encourage you to visit his website or contact Dr. Maurice John directly at mjohn@johnkenyon.net.

For more information on the author, please visit www.johnkenyon.com

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