While omega-3s are commonly used to treat dry eye, a new study suggests oral vitamins B1 and mecobalamin, a form of B12, can also relieve symptoms, including dryness, pain and photophobia.

Investigators from China enrolled 152 eyes of 76 patients who were an average of 55 years old and divided them into four groups, based on treatment regimen:

  • Group 1: artificial tears
  • Group 2: corticosteroid eye drops and artificial tears
  • Group 3: oral vitamin B1, mecobalamin and artificial tears
  • Group 4: same regimen as Group 3 with the addition of corticosteroid eye drops

The researchers assessed patients’ symptoms, signs and satisfaction with treatment at baseline and again at one and two months.

Group 3 exhibited significant differences in dryness, foreign body sensation, burning, average TBUT and patient satisfaction scores between months one and two following treatment. The same group also showed significant differences in dryness, foreign body sensation, photophobia and average TBUT between baseline and two months post-treatment.

Patients in groups 3 and 4 had significant differences in foreign body sensation between one and two months of treatment. Additionally, group 4 patients noted pain, blurred vision and total symptom scores significantly improved at one month after treatment.

The researchers also observed improvement in corneal nerve fiber density between baseline and one and two months after treatment in both of groups taking vitamin B1. “These observations suggest that oral vitamin B1 and mecobalamin can help nourish and repair the corneal nerve layer to some extent, thereby alleviating burning and photophobia,” the study authors concluded in their paper. Of note, oral vitamin B1 and mecobalamin were more effective in men than women, particularly for dryness and photophobia, they wrote.

Ren X, Chou Y, Jiang X, et al. Effects of oral vitamin B1 and mecobalamin on dry eye disease. J Ophthalmol. 2020;2020:9539674.