Your morning cup of coffee or energizing can of Red Bull may be surprising sources of relief from the annoying symptoms of dry eye. A study conducted at the University of Tokyo’s School of Medicine showed that caffeine can increase the eye’s ability to manufacture tears. These results are significant and welcome news for dry eye sufferers.
While dry eye isn’t typically dangerous or sight-threatening, it is a common condition that affects approximately four million people above the age of 50 in the United States – and the symptoms can be very disruptive to normal life. An inability to maintain a healthy, moist layer of tears on the eye’s surface interferes with clear and comfortable vision. When you have itchy, gritty, burning and red eyes, routine activities such as reading, driving and watching TV can become uncomfortable and even painful.
After consuming caffeine, all 78 participants in the Japanese study produced substantially more tears than the people in the placebo group. On average, tear volume of the caffeine-takers in the study was 30% higher after both one and two hours. To be eligible to join the study, subjects could not have hypertension, allergies that affect the eye, glaucoma or any other ocular disease that can impact tear production. More research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of caffeine as dry eye treatment, yet these findings are encouraging.
At present, recommended treatments for dry eye range from applying warm compresses to your eyes to using artificial tears or tear drainage devices. One day, when doctors understand more about the connection between caffeine and tear production, caffeine tablets, regular cups of coffee, tea and Red Bull may also be on the list of therapies for dry eye syndrome.