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Essential fatty acids may mitigate symptoms of the dry eye syndrome

Published on

20 April 2016

A new review from China concludes that polyunsaturated fatty acids may be an effective therapy for patients with the dry eye syndrome.

The meta-analysis included nine randomized controlled trials with a total of 716 participants investigating the effects of supplements with polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) on symptoms of the dry eye syndrome (1). The analysis showed that a supplementation from one to six months improved the symptoms on the ocular surface and relieved burning and reflex tear secretion symptoms. In addition, the supplementation reduced inflammatory responses in the ocular surface. No significant beneficial effect was shown with regard to tear volume or the stability of the ocular surface. There was a potentially important increase in therapeutic efficacy with the combined administration of omega-3 (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) and omega-6 (gamma-linolenic acid) fatty acids.

The researchers commented that it is hypothesized that polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation may provide therapeutic efficacy in the dry eye syndrome by improving the symptoms and reducing inflammation. Apart from oral supplementation, topical administration (eye drops) was also reported to have beneficial effects. Additional large-scale, well-designed clinical trials are warranted to expand the base of evidence. Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common ocular diseases. It is a multifactorial disorder that includes risk factors such as aging, autoimmune disease, menopausal status and medication use. The worldwide prevalence ranges from 7.8% to 22%, depending on the diagnostic criteria. The syndrome contributes to ocular discomfort, visual disturbance, and potential damage to the ocular surface, all of which significantly affect the quality of life.


  1. Zhu W. et al. Efficacy of polyunsaturated fatty acids for dry eye syndrome: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition Reviews. 2014; 72(10):662–671.

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