Potential benefits of omega-3 in ocular hypertension and glaucoma

 
 
 

What is glaucoma? Glaucoma is a disorder where eye pressure damages the optic nerve, causing vision loss. What is ocular hypertension? In people with ocular hypertension, the pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) is higher than normal, because the front of the eye does not drain fluid properly (this causes eye pressure to build up). What is the relationship between ocular hypertension and glaucoma? Ocular hypertension can cause glaucoma. High eye pressure is the major modifiable risk factor for glaucoma, so, reducing intraocular pressure is the first objective of glaucoma treatment.

What is the relationship omega-3 fatty acids and eye health? Many studies have considered the association between omega-3 fatty acids intake and eye health. From them we know that omega-3 fatty acids may modulate metabolic processes and attenuate effects of environmental exposures (which include chronic light exposure, inflammation, and aging, among others) that activate molecules implicated in retinal disorders. Omega-3 fatty acids status is related to retinal structure and function: DHA is a major structural component of retinal photoreceptor membranes, therefore it may affect its function; tissue DHA status affects retinal cell mechanisms involved in the process by which light is converted into electrical signals; tissue DHA insufficiency is associated with alterations in retinal function and decreased red blood cell DHA levels are evident in people with glaucoma. Additionally, intraocular pressure is regulated by the balance between fluid secretion and outflow, and in an animal model study the supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced intraocular pressure by means of a mechanism involving increased fluid outflow facility.

Tissue status of omega-3 fatty acids is modifiable by dietary intake, and according to two large trials carried out in Europe and the United States, there is a relationship between the intake of omega-3 fatty acids and the likelihood of getting glaucoma: increased consumption of EPA and DHA is associated with a lower likelihood of glaucoma. These findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids intake may modulate intraocular pressure in humans.

Recently, the joint analysis of the data from two studies about the effects of omega-3 supplementation in the intraocular pressure of adults consuming a typical Western diet have demonstrated that three months of omega-3 supplementation significantly reduces intraocular pressure.

All these findings support the therapeutic potential of omega-3 supplementation to prevent and/or treat disorders with intraocular pressure elevation, including ocular hypertension and glaucoma.

Bibliography: 

Downie LE, Vingrys AJ. Oral Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Intraocular Pressure in Normotensive Adults. Transl Vis Sci Technol. 2018 May 1;7(3):1.

SanGiovanni JP, Chew EY. The role of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in health and disease of the retina. Prog Ret Eye Res. 2005;24:87-138.

American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is ocular hypertension?