Purpose: Symptoms of dry eye are commonly reported in contact lens wearers and are a frequent cause of non-tolerance. The purpose of the present study is to evaluate the effects of oral treatment with particular omega-6 fatty acids in the form of evening primrose oil (EPO) on subjective symptoms, ocular surface signs and tear film characteristic in patients with contact lens associated dry eye.
Methods: The study design was randomised, double-masked and placebo controlled. 76 female soft contact lens wearers were treated for 6 months with either EPO or placebo (olive oil). Subjects underwent three examinations (baseline, 3 and 6 months). At each examination subjects were given a questionnaire relating to lens comfort and dry eye symptoms and underwent a series of tests of tear film characteristics (tear meniscus height, break-up time), meibomian gland function (lipid layer thickness and quality) and ocular surface parameters (hyperaemia and staining).
Results: The EPO group showed a significant improvement in the specific symptom of 'dryness' at 3 and 6 months (p<0.01) and also a significant improvement in overall lens comfort at 6 months (p<0.01). Tear meniscus height was increased in the EPO group at 6 months relative to baseline (p<0.01), although all other objective signs were unchanged.
Conclusion: This study provides evidence for a beneficial effect of particular orally administered omega-6 fatty acids in alleviating dry eye symptoms and improving overall lens comfort in patients suffering from contact lens associated dry eye.