coffee eyesCaffeine has long been a staple of the American diet  – from the first cup of joe in the morning to the midday pick-me-up. In fact, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants for Americans.  But caffeine itself has been associated with negative health benefits including increasing pressure in the eyes, and therefore possibly contributing to glaucoma.

A new study has found a novel approach to answer the question of whether caffeine does indeed increase eye pressure.  According to the journal Clinical Ophthalmology, researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine have teamed up with the Chandra Eye Research Institute in India to put caffeine directly on the eye and study its effects.

The researchers isolated the caffeine to make a ‘caffeine eye drop’ that they dropped in eyes of five glaucoma patients twice a day for one week.  In the end, they concluded that caffeine had no effect on intraocular pressure in either the one-day follow up or the one-week follow up.

Incidentally, there were no reports of increased eyelid twitching or withdrawal symptoms.

This counteracts the finding from a 2005 study which said caffeine does in fact increase the pressure.  However, that study used coffee as the source of caffeine, which has more variables than the pure caffeine eye drops.  Therefore any effects reported in coffee drinkers may be related to other components in coffee which may come about while roasting coffee beans at high temperatures or possibly from milk and sugar that’s added to the drink.

All the experts agree that small amounts of caffeine won’t cause your eye pressure to increase or cause glaucoma. However, if you have concerns that you consume too much caffeine, you should talk with your doctor to determine your appropriate and healthy level of caffeine intake.

If you have risk factors for glaucoma, such as high pressure or a family history, your doctor may recommend that you decrease your overall caffeine intake or at least lower it to safe levels.  Eye pressure can only be determined during eye exams and most glaucoma patients don’t feel their pressure increasing.  That is why it’s so important to have your eyes check routinely, to detect and prevent problems early, before they become sight-threatening.