Purpose: Dry eye is a common complaint often encountered in optometric practice. However, it is a difficult condition to treat as clinical signs do not always correlate with patient symptoms. Essential fatty acids (EFA), particularly omega-3 EFA, may be effective in dealing with the underlying causes.
Methods: A literature review was carried out on the PubMed, ScienceDirect and Ovid databases. Searches included keywords such as 'dry eye', 'essential fatty acids' and 'nutrition' to find articles relating to the treatment of dry eye syndrome (DES) with omega-3 EFAs.
Results: Omega-3 and -6 EFAs need to be consumed together within a reasonable ratio to be effective. Currently, typical diets in developed countries lack omega-3 EFA and this results in an overexposure to omega-6. Omega-3 supplementation has an anti-inflammatory effect, inhibiting creation of omega-6 prostaglandin precursors. Omega-3 EFAs also demonstrate anti-inflammatory action in the lacrimal gland preventing apoptosis of the secretory epithelial cells. Supplementation clears meibomitis, allowing a thinner, more elastic lipid layer to protect the tear film and cornea.
Conclusion: Dietary supplementation of omega-3 EFA has already proven to be effective in coronary heart disease and arthritis. Safety is not a concern as it works synergistically with omega-6 in the body. Evidence suggests that supplementation with omega-3 EFA may be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of DES.
2009 British Contact Lens Association. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.