Harvard Health Letter

Soothing dry eyes

New research finds caffeine may help.

For the millions of people who suffer from dry-eye syndrome—a low moisture level in the eyes that causes a stinging, burning sensation—a solution may be waiting in a cup of coffee or tea. In a study published in the journal Ophthalmology, people who consumed caffeine produced more tears than those who took a placebo. "This is an interesting study, the first I know of which addresses the effect of caffeine directly on tear volume," says Dr. Jason Rothman, an ophthalmologist at Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston. "There is evidence from other studies which suggests caffeine may increase other secretions, such as stomach acid and saliva. But the effects of caffeine may be different from person to person."

The importance of tears

Dry-eye syndrome causes more than just a reduction in the amount of tears. It's also associated with a change in the tear ingredients. Tears are a mixture of oils, water and mucus, which help protect our eyes from infection by keeping them lubricated and washing away dirt and other particles.

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