Purpose: ω-3 and ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids modulate inflammatory processes throughout the body through distinct classes of lipid mediators that possess both proinflammatory and proresolving properties. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to explore the relationship between lipid profiles in human tears and dry eye (DE) symptoms and signs. Methods: Forty-one patients with normal eyelid and corneal anatomy were prospectively recruited from a Veterans Administration Hospital over 18 months. Symptoms and signs of DE were assessed, and tear samples was analyzed by mass spectrometry–based lipidomics. Statistical analyses comparing the relationship between tear film lipids and DE included Pearson/Spearman correlations and t-tests. Results: Arachidonic acid (AA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) were present in more than 90% of tear film samples. The ratio of ω-6 (AA) to ω-3 (DHA+EPA) fatty acids was correlated with multiple measures of tear film dysfunction (tear breakup time, Schirmer 2 scores, and corneal staining; all P < 0.05). Arachidonic acid–derived prostaglandin E2 was detected in the majority of samples and correlated with low tear osmolarity, meibomian gland plugging, and corneal staining. Conclusions: Both ω-3 and ω-6 lipid circuits are activated in the human tear film. The ratio of ω-6:ω-3 tear lipids is elevated in DE patients in proportion to the degree of tear film dysfunction and corneal staining. Metabolic deficiency of ω-3 tear film lipids may be a driver of chronic ocular surface inflammation in DE.
- Dry eyes
- Fatty acids
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience