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Essential fatty acids may benefit patients with dry eye

Published on

14 August 2013

Increased intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and antioxidants may improve ocular irritation symptoms and halt the progression of inflammation that characterizes moderate to severe dry eye, suggests a new US study.

In the randomized controlled trial, 38 post-menopausal women with tear dysfunction in both eyes received either a daily supplement containing a blend of EPA, DHA plus gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) as well as vitamins ACEB6 and magnesium, or a placebo for six months (1). At one, three and six months, the severity of disease symptoms (e.g., Ocular Surface Disease Index and tear flow measurement) as well as concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers were determined. The study results showed that the group taking the supplement had improved ocular irritation symptoms, suppressed ocular surface inflammation and main-tained corneal surface smoothness, compared to those taking the placebo.

The researchers commented that the study findings contribute strong evidence to support the use of an oral essential fatty acid supplement to decrease inflammation, which is the cause of pain in dry eye sufferers. The fatty acids and other micronutrient cofactors contained in the supplement are thought to help reduce inflam-mation, an underlying cause of dry eye, and support all three layers of the tear film. Dry eye can range from a minor annoyance to a debilitating disease where the patient has constant, burning light sensitivity. Accor-ding to the results of an earlier trial, increased intakes of lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial for patients affected by age-related macular degeneration (2).


  1. Sheppard, J. D. Jr. et al. Long-term supplementation with n-6 and n-3 PUFAs improves moderate-to-severe keratoconjunctivitis sicca: a randomized double-blind clinical trial. Cornea. Published online July 2013.
  2. Arnold C. et al. Macular xanthophylls and omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in age-related macular degeneration: a randomized trial. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2013; 131(5):564-572.

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