Purpose:  To determine whether oral supplementation with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can reduce conjunctival epithelium expression of the inflammatory marker human leucocyte antigen-DR (HLA-DR) in patients with dry eye syndrome (DES).

Methods:  This 3-month, double-masked, parallel-group, controlled study was conducted in nine centres, in France and Italy. Eligible adult patients with mild to moderate DES were randomized to receive a placebo containing medium-chain triglycerides or treatment supplement containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins and zinc. Treatment regimen was three capsules daily. Impression cytology (IC) was performed at baseline and at month 3 to assess the percentage of cells expressing HLA-DR and to evaluate fluorescence intensity, an alternate measure of HLA-DR. Dry eye symptoms and objective signs were also evaluated. Analyses were performed on the full analysis set (FAS) and per-protocol set (PPS).

Results:  In total, 138 patients were randomized; 121 patients with available IC were included in the FAS, and of these, 106 patients had no major protocol deviations (PPS). In the PPS, there was a significant reduction in the percentage of HLA-DR-positive cells in the fatty acids group (p = 0.021). Expression of HLA-DR as measured by fluorescence intensity quantification was also significantly reduced in the fatty acids group [FAS (p = 0.041); PPS (p = 0.017)]. No significant difference was found for the signs and symptoms, but there was a tendency for improvement in patients receiving the fatty acids treatment.

Conclusion:  This study demonstrates that supplementation with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can reduce expression of HLA-DR conjunctival inflammatory marker and may help improve DES symptoms.