Topical omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for treatment of dry eye

Arch Ophthalmol. 2008 Feb;126(2):219-25. doi: 10.1001/archophthalmol.2007.61.


Objective: To study the efficacy of topical application of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA) for dry eye treatment.

Methods: Formulations containing ALA, LA, combined ALA and LA, or vehicle alone, were applied to dry eyes induced in mice. Corneal fluorescein staining and the number and maturation of corneal CD11b(+) cells were determined by a masked observer in the different treatment groups. Real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to quantify expression of inflammatory cytokines in the cornea and conjunctiva.

Results: Dry eye induction significantly increased corneal fluorescein staining; CD11b(+) cell number and major histocompatibility complex Class II expression; corneal IL-1alpha and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) expression; and conjunctival IL-1alpha, TNF-alpha, interferon gamma, IL-2, IL-6, and IL-10 expression. Treatment with ALA significantly decreased corneal fluorescein staining compared with both vehicle and untreated controls. Additionally, ALA treatment was associated with a significant decrease in CD11b(+) cell number, expression of corneal IL-1alpha and TNF-alpha, and conjunctival TNF-alpha.

Conclusions: Topical ALA treatment led to a significant decrease in dry eye signs and inflammatory changes at both cellular and molecular levels.

Clinical relevance: Topical application of ALA omega-3 fatty acid may be a novel therapy to treat the clinical signs and inflammatory changes accompanying dry eye syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • CD11b Antigen / metabolism
  • Cell Count
  • Conjunctiva / drug effects
  • Conjunctiva / metabolism
  • Cornea / drug effects
  • Cornea / metabolism
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / drug therapy*
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / metabolism
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / pathology
  • Fluorescein / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Linoleic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Monocytes / pathology
  • Ophthalmic Solutions / administration & dosage*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Treatment Outcome
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / administration & dosage*


  • CD11b Antigen
  • Cytokines
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid
  • Linoleic Acid
  • Fluorescein