Does Caffeine Help Dry Eyes?

Article Image How Caffeine Affects Dry Eye

Does caffeine improve dry eye?

Dry eyes can cause stinging, burning, sensitivity to light, and irritation. It can also make your vision blurry because tear film is part of the eyes’ refraction process, the bending of light rays so they converge on the retina for a clear image.

Caffeine is a xanthine alkaloid that is found in tea, coffee, cocoa, and the kola nut. Xanthine derivatives are used in medication to improve breathing by opening air passages in the lungs. Some studies have indicated that caffeine can also increase tear production.

The studies that found caffeine improved tear production were small, and there were other studies that showed no improvement in tear production from the ingestion of caffeine. So that means that more research is needed to settle this question.

In one small Japanese study there were only 41 participants, but that study did show an increase in the Schirmer’s score after caffeine intake. A Schirmer’s test uses paper strips inserted into the eye for several minutes to measure the production of tears. The strips of paper are placed inside the lower eyelid and the eyes are closed for 5 minutes. The paper is then removed, and the score is determined by the length of the moistened area of the strips.

However, that was one small study and for now eye doctors don’t know enough about the effects of caffeine to recommend it as a dry eye treatment. In addition, too much caffeine has side effects such as anxiety, a rise in blood pressure, and disrupted sleep.

Dry Eyes Do Need Treatment

When left untreated dry eyes can lead to corneal damage and scarring, and in extremely severe cases to vision loss. 

Mild cases of dry eyes can be treated by using artificial tears to keep the eye lubricated and protect the corneas.

Warm compresses can be used to cleanse the eyelids and improve oil flow through the eyelid glands. This oil flow will improve the quality of your tears and help the tears to not evaporate too quickly.

Gently massaging the eyelids with warm water and baby shampoo can also improve oil flow though your eyelid glands. A preservative-free eyelid cleanser can be used. Both upper and lower eyelids should be cleaned and massaged.

For more severe dry eyes your eye doctor can use in-office procedures to cleanse your eyelid glands and increase tear quality. Your eye doctor may also prescribe prescription eye drops.

This is a list of possible causes of your dry eyes

  • Poor tear quality or quantity
  • Gender: Women are more often diagnosed with dry eye than men
  • Age (over 50)
  • Exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid problems
  • Medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications
  • Infrequent blinking when using a digital device
  • Long term contact lens use
  • Meibomian gland disorder (insufficient production/secretion of oil)
  • Blepharitis (clogged oil glands in eyelid)
  • Refractive eye surgeries such as LASIK

If you are experiencing dry eyes, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor who can determine the best treatment for your condition. 

If you would like to make an appointment, call us 609.877.2800 or EMail us.

Gregory Scimeca, M.D.
Ophthalmologist and Medical Director
The Eye Professionals

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