Essential fatty acids for dry eye: a review

Marco Roncone, Hannah Bartlett, Frank Eperjesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

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.

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.

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
JournalContact Lens and Anterior Eye
Issue number2
Early online date23 Dec 2009
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Contact lens and anterior eye. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Roncone, M, Bartlett, H & Eperjesi, F, 'Essential fatty acids for dry eye: a review', Contact lens and anterior eye, vol 33, no. 2 (2010) DOI


  • dietary supplements
  • drug dose-response relationship
  • dry eye syndromes
  • essential fatty acids
  • humans
  • prevalence
  • treatment outcome


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