Evening Primrose Oil Relieves Dry Eyes

People who wear contact lenses often complain of dryness of the eyes, which sometimes causes people to stop using them. This study was conducted to find out whether the regular ingestion of omega-6 fatty acids in the form of evening primrose oil can improve dryness in the eyes of contact lens wearers. Results showed that people who took evening primrose oil for three to six months complained of less dryness during contact lens use. After half a year of use, these people were more comfortable with the lenses and their eyes also formed more tears.

Dryness of the eyes in contact lenses wearers leads to decreased usage of the lenses and ultimately, cessation of use altogether. There is evidence that using contact lenses leads to decreased tear formation and dry eyes. Some researchers have shown that diet changes with the inclusion of essential fatty acids may help dry eyes. These agents have been tried successfully for dry eyes due to other causes. This study explored whether a daily intake of essential fatty acids, like omega-6 fatty acids present in evening primrose oil, could improve tear formation and prevent eyes from drying in people who use contact lens.

* A total of 76 women who wore contact lenses and were experiencing symptoms of contact lens-induced dry eye were included in the study.
* These women were divided into two groups and were given six capsules per day to consume. They did not know if they were consuming evening primrose oil with omega-6 fatty acids or olive oil that served as the placebo.
* All participants’ eyes were checked for tear formation; and they were asked questions related to comfort levels with their lenses, and discomfort and dryness of their eyes. This was done at the beginning of the program, before any oil was taken; and thereafter at three and six months.

Results/key findings
* Results showed that those taking evening primrose oil reported less dryness of the eyes after three and six months of use.
* At six months, those women who were taking evening primrose oil said they were more comfortable wearing their contact lenses. Overall the comfort levels rose by 20 percent in the participants consuming evening primrose oil.
* On examination of the eyes, it was seen that evening primrose oil consumption led to better tear formation after six months of use.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The authors admit that this study was a small one and may not be indicative of absolute results with EPO or omega-6 fatty acids. They suggest further studies that examine a combination of both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids as dietary supplements to relieve the symptoms of dry eye in people who wear contact lenses.

The authors conclude, “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.” The authors also suggest that this benefit may be due to a reduction of inflammatory changes that are common in the eye when wearing contact lenses. This study showed that omega-6 fatty acids also act by improving secretion of tears, and thus help reduce dryness of the eyes. The authors write that when a person considers wearing contact lenses, he or she should be counseled about the benefits of omega-6 fatty acids and eye health.

For More Information:
Oral Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acid Treatment in Contact Lens Associated Dry Eye
Publication Journal: Contact Lens & Anterior Eye, 2008
By Karolien H. Kokke; Judith A. Morris; Sussex Eye Hospital, and City University, London, United Kingdom

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.