Many of us enjoy a cup or two of coffee to keep our eyes open on tired mornings. But what else can caffeine do for our eyes?
If you suffer from dry eye syndrome (DES), you may have been advised by a friend or doctor to steer clear of caffeinated coffee due to its diuretic effect—it increases the frequency of urination, leading to water loss. Yet some research suggests that a cup of caffeinated joe might actually promote tear production.
Below, we’ll explore scientific studies that test the relationship between caffeine consumption and tear film, and what you should do if your eyes are giving you trouble.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome (DES) is an eye condition characterized by dry, stinging, red, itchy eyes. It can be caused by several factors: poor tear quality, insufficient tears, allergies, environmental irritants and excessive digital screen time.
Left untreated, DES can lead to corneal damage and scarring and even permanent vision loss in severe cases.
Certain foods and beverages have been shown to improve the symptoms of DES, like fish high in omega 3s, leafy greens, seeds, nuts and—possibly coffee?
How Does Caffeine Consumption Impact Dry Eye Syndrome?
Caffeine contains a chemical called xanthine, which has been proven to stimulate tear production when applied topically to the eye. As yet, there is insufficient published research to confirm that ingesting xanthine provides the same tear-producing effect, but preliminary studies seem to suggest that it does.
A study published in Optometry and Vision Science found that drinking caffeine significantly increased tear production after 45-90 minutes. Interestingly, age, gender and body mass had no bearing on the outcome.
Another study, published in Ophthalmology and involving 78 individuals, found similar results. Researchers measured the participants’ tear film twice: once after consuming caffeine and once after drinking a placebo. Their tear film was thickest after consuming caffeine, especially in those with a specific genetic makeup.
While both of these studies showed promising results, they didn’t have enough participants to accurately project the findings onto the general population.
Additionally, as yet no studies have been published using only patients who suffer from dry eye syndrome.
So, if you have DES, should you switch to decaf or go for a double-shot espresso? The answer isn’t clear-cut, so it’s best to consult your optometrist.
If You Have Dry Eye Syndrome, We Can Help
Finding relief from dry eye syndrome relies on knowing the underlying cause of your symptoms. Only your eye doctor can diagnose the problem and determine the best treatment for you, whether that includes medicated or lubricating eye drops, in-clinic treatments, personalized eye hygiene products like eyelid cleansing wipes, nutritional supplements and more.
If you or a loved one lives with symptoms of dry eye syndrome, we can offer long-lasting relief. To schedule your dry eye consultation, call Family Vision Care today.
Q: #1: Should I start drinking coffee if I don’t already?
- A: Always consult your health care provider before adding or removing anything to your diet. Experts agree that most healthy people can tolerate around 400 mg (about 4 cups) of coffee per day. But keep in mind that caffeine can also cause jitters, anxiety, high blood pressure and difficulty sleeping. So if any of those apply to you, it may be best to avoid caffeinated coffee.
Q: #2: Can I ingest caffeine in other forms besides coffee?
- A: Coffee and tea are the safest bets when it comes to caffeine. Other caffeinated options like sodas and energy drinks are packed with sugar and have been linked to serious health complications like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Family Vision Care serves patients from Mt Pleasant, Charleston, Drum Island, and Sullivan's Island, all throughout South Carolina.