Potassium Deficiency and Dry Eye

potassium foodsOne of the many nutrients that is essential for human life is potassium. Potassium is an electrolyte:  a mineral with an electric charge that is present in blood and other fluids in the body. This mineral is necessary for growth, muscle function, electrical activity of the heart, nerve impulse transmission, and acid-base balance.  Our dry eye community will be interested to know that low levels of potassium have been associated with dry eye. 

Potassium is one of the important components that comprise tear film. Tear film includes electrolytes, one of which is potassium. One of the first-line treatments prescribed for dry eye is the use of lubricating drops. It is often recommended to choose a drop with an electrolyte composition closest to that of natural tears. Potassium in addition to bicarbonate appears to be one the most important of these electrolytes in tear film.

Several research studies have demonstrated that potassium levels have a direct impact on tear film. Researchers have found that lower levels of potassium negatively affect tear-film break-up time and also are integral to the maintenance of corneal epithelium. Another study on animal subjects showed that potassium is necessary for the maintenance of normal corneal thickness. Each of these discoveries highlights the importance of potassium to the optimal health of the corneal surface.

Your body cannot produce potassium; therefore, it’s necessary to obtain this nutrient in your diet or through supplementation. It is recommended that adults get 4.7 grams of potassium each day. Potassium is found in meats, fish, dairy products, legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Foods that are rich in potassium include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • White beans and lima beans
  • Yogurt
  • Halibut and tuna