Dry Eyes: Drink Coffee? 

Dr. Russel Lazarus, June 7, 2021

Could caffeine be the next big thing in dry eye relief?

Most research shows that caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that caffeine causes the body to excrete more water, resulting in the body feeling more dry.

However, a study published in 2021 in Optometry and Vision Science found that drinking caffeine significantly increased tear production after 45-90 minutes and age and gender had no bearing on the outcome

Many of us enjoy a cup or two of caffeinated coffee to keep our eyes open on tired mornings, but 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.

Yet, this research suggests that caffeinated coffee might actually promote tear production.

What are dry eyes? 

Dry eyes are defined by dry, stinging, red, itchy or watery eyes. This can be caused by several factors: poor tear quality, not enough tears, allergies, environmental irritants, and too much screen time.

Left untreated, dry eyes 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 fatty fish, leafy greens, seeds, nuts and — possibly coffee?

How does caffeine impact dry eyes? 

Caffeine contains a chemical called xanthine, which has been proven to stimulate tear production when applied topically to the eye.

Research to yet confirm that ingesting xanthine via a cup of coffee provides the same effects, but preliminary studies seem to suggest positive results.

Another study, published in Ophthalmology and involving 78 individuals, found that caffeine could increase tear volume.

Researchers measured the participants’ tear film twice: once after consuming caffeine and once after a placebo. The tear films were thickest after consuming caffeine.

While both of these studies showed promising results, they are not large enough to accurately project the findings onto the general population.

Additionally, no studies have been conducted yet on individuals who actually suffer from dry eyes.

If you experience dry eyes, your optometrist is the best option for finding a long term solution.

If you suffer from dry eyes, speak to an optometrist about the various treatment options that can provide you with long-lasting relief.