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Supplemental GLA Improves Dry Eye in Sjogren’s Syndrome

Source: EduFacts, Volume 6 – Number 8

Inflammation and Sjögren’s Syndrome

Affecting more than 1.4 million Americans, Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which immune cells attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva. The hallmark symptoms of the disorder are dry mouth and dry eyes. Sjogren’s syndrome is also frequently associated with rheumatic disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Anti-inflammatory Activity of GLA

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and its precursor linoleic acid (LA) are essential fatty acids found in certain plant seed oils such as borage or black currant seed oil. Oral administration of GLA and LA has been shown to have beneficial effects in the treatment of chronic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, and several pilot studies conducted in the 1980’s suggest that these fatty acids may also benefit the ocular status of patients with Sjögren’s.

Researchers from the University of Messina in Italy now report that modest amounts of supplemental GLA and LA raise PGE1 tear content in Sjogren’s, and improve signs and symptoms of eye discomfort in these patients.

Design and Methods

This randomized, double-blind, controlled trial involved 40 patients with primary Sjogren’s Syndrome divided into 2 groups. One group received GLA (15 mg) and LA (112 mg) twice daily for 1 month (GLA group), while the other group received placebos.


Tear PGE1 levels were significantly increased in the GLA group after 1 month of treatment. Fifteen days after treatment was halted, a significant reduction of the PGE1 levels toward baseline was observed. There were significantly fewer symptoms in the GLA group after 1 month; with several symptoms (burning, foreign body sensation and dryness) remaining improved after treatment was stopped. This group also showed a significant improvement after the first month, which was sustained 15 days after treatment cessation.


According to the authors, these results indicate that supplemental GLA and LA effectively increases PGE1, an indicator of anti-inflammatory activity, improves health status of the eye surface and reduces dry eye symptoms.

Aragona P, et al. Systemic omega-6 essential fatty acid treatment and PGE1 tear content in Sjogren’s syndrome patients. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 46:4474-9, 2005.