Is Caffeine to Blame for Blepharitis? Read on to Find Out.

Who doesn’t like to start off the day with a cup of hot coffee? And if you lead a busy life, then caffeine is what keeps you going. It prevents sleep and keeps you active throughout the day.

Caffeine has various effects on the body. 

So, it’s natural to wonder if any newfound change is associated with caffeine. One of these changes that people ask about is blepharitis.

Are Coffee and Blepharitis connected?

Blepharitis is the inflammation of the eyelids. There haven’t been concrete studies establishing the association between caffeine intake and blepharitis. There are several other studies that even contradict each other. So, we can’t say for sure that caffeine causes blepharitis.

So let’s explore a bit deeper into, ‘can caffeine cause blepharitis?’

Coffee and Blepharitis

As you’ve already read, there have been no studies correlating caffeine and blepharitis. In order to say that a particular factor is responsible for a disease, adequate research is necessary. And we simply don’t have that in the case of caffeine and blepharitis yet.

coffee-and-blepharitis

However, there have been several studies regarding the effect of caffeine on the eyes. One of those effects is dry eyes. For quite some time it was believed that caffeine causes dry eyes. And dry eyes can lead to blepharitis.

However, some recent studies suggest that caffeine doesn’t cause dry eyes. In fact, it might actually help with dry eyes.

With that being said, let’s take an in-depth look at blepharitis and how it might be affected by caffeine.

Blepharitis – Basics You Need to Know

The word blepharitis has its origin from the Greek word ‘blepharon’ which means eyelid. And as you may already have heard, ‘itis’ is a common suffix in the medical world. This means inflammation of the tissue or organ. So, blepharitis means inflammation of the eyelids.

Inflammation is a protective response of your body. It helps kill or destroy any damaging substance. However, it does bring with it a fair share of problems. The inflamed tissue gets swollen, red, and is painful. And that is what blepharitis feels like too.

What Can Cause Blepharitis?

Now you might be wondering what is the cause of this blepharitis. As you’ve already read, inflammation is a response to eliminating harmful agents. So, there is a damaging agent here too which evokes inflammation of your eyelids.

Let’s look at the important causes now:

Infectious Agents

Following are the infectious agents that might cause Blepharitis: 

  • The most common cause of blepharitis by far is a bacterial infection. And the most common bacteria which is responsible is the notorious Staphylococcus aureus. This bacteria is found in almost half the cases of blepharitis.

The exact way in which this bacteria might cause blepharitis is not known. However, scientists believe that there may be two factors involved. One is that the inflammation is caused by the damage caused by the toxins released by the bacteria. 

Another hypothesis is that the immune cells of your body attack the bacteria. But, in the process of eliminating the bacteria, they cause damage and cause inflammation.

  • Other bacteria like Staphylococcus epidermidis, Propionibacterium acnes, or Corynebacterium species may be responsible as well.
  • Viruses can cause blepharitis as well. But they are relatively rare. The viruses which are sometimes isolated include Herpes simplex and Varicella zoster.
  • Some arthropods might also cause blepharitis. Mites like Demodex and crab lice can be responsible.

Other Non-Infectious Associations 

Other than these organisms, blepharitis is also associated with systemic conditions. Those are mentioned below: 

  •  It has a link with acne rosacea. This disease affects the skin and causes a reddish and acne-like rash.
  • Seborrheic blepharitis is a type of blepharitis that occurs due to a seborrheic disease process. It is an inflammatory or immune reaction that causes greasy lashes and scaling of the skin.
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction can be the cause of blepharitis too. The meibomian glands are situated in the margin of the eyelids. These glands secrete an oily substance which is a part of the normal tear. Dysfunctions of these glands can make the tears evaporate quickly.

 So, the protective tear layer on the eyes might be lost. This makes the eyelids more prone to inflammation.

  • Vitamin deficiency is a key factor in any condition affecting the skin. You see, vitamin A is a vital component needed by cells of the skin. This vitamin acts as a factor helping with gene expression.

 So, this vitamin is essential for secretion, cell division, and other vital functions of the cells of the skin. And people with vitamin A deficiency can sometimes present with blepharitis.

  • Different allergic conditions, foreign substances, etc. might be associated with blepharitis.

Signs and Symptoms

There are a few common symptoms that show up if you have blepharitis. However, there are some other rare symptoms that you may or may not have. 

Some of the common ones are:

  • Redness of the eyes: This can happen due to dilation of the blood vessels.
  • Puffy or swollen eyelids: There is fluid exudation outside the vessels into the soft tissue. This causes swollen eyelids.
  • Itching and pain of the eyelids: Inflammation releases various chemicals which can give the sensation of itching and pain.
  • Eyelid crusting: This happens due to the pathogens building up in eyelid margins.
  • A gritty sensation or feeling that there’s something stuck in the eyelids.
  • Excessive tearing of the eyes: This is due to irritation and inflammation.
  • The damage to the eyelid might even make the lashes grow out in all directions.
  • Blurred vision and photosensitivity might make going out during the day difficult.

In some severe cases, there can be further infection and complications. This is especially true if the infection goes on for too long and becomes chronic. There can be permanent fibrosis and scarring of the eyelids.

It can even proceed to inflammation of the cornea, keratitis, conjunctivitis, and corneal ulceration leading to blindness. So, it’s best to get this condition treated as fast as possible. 

What Role Does Caffeine Play Here?

Now you might be wondering how caffeine might factor into this. As already mentioned, caffeine and blepharitis have no proven association. However, caffeine has various effects on the body. And so it is possible that it might influence blepharitis.

caffeine

Caffeine is a pharmacologically active chemical inside the body. It chemically falls among the methylxanthine class of drugs. Other drugs of this class include theophylline, aminophylline, paraxanthine, etc. Among these, theophylline is a widely used asthma drug.

Caffeine however is a psychoactive drug. It means that the main action of caffeine is in the brain. Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain. And this binding prevents adenosine from binding. This adenosine is what causes you to feel sleepy. So, consuming caffeine can keep you from feeling sleepy.

However, that isn’t the only action of caffeine. Like all other methylxanthines, caffeine inhibits the enzyme phosphodiesterase. This increases the levels of several important chemicals inside the cells like cAMP, cGMP, etc. These chemicals can have widespread effects.

Previously, scientists thought that caffeine could lead to dry eyes. This was based on the fact that caffeine is a mild diuretic. Diuretics are drugs that make you pee more. This might sound insignificant. But diuretics can take fluid out of the body which might make the eyes drier.

However, new research says the opposite. Mild to moderate amounts of caffeine can increase tear production. So, people who consume caffeine have a lesser chance of developing dry eyes.

In one research it was found that caffeine has vasoconstriction properties. Caffeine can also stimulate blood circulation around the eyes.

All of these point to the fact that caffeine might be helpful for dry eyes. And improved blood circulation is actually helpful in case of blepharitis. And dry eyes can decrease the clearance of bacteria which can increase the chance of blepharitis.

So, caffeine is something that is not to blame for blepharitis. In fact, it might even help with blepharitis a little.

Treatment of Blepharitis

There are both medical treatment and home remedies available for Blepharitis. You can go for any of them depending on the suitability. 

Medical Treatment

Doctors use several therapies for treating blepharitis:

  • The main medical treatment involves topical antibiotics. As already mentioned, blepharitis most commonly occurs due to bacterial infections. So, using local antibiotic creams or ointments can help eliminate the bacteria and clear up the infection.
  • Since inflammation is what causes uneasiness, topical steroids are used too sometimes. Steroids are known to reduce inflammation.
  • In case of infestation by Demodex, tree oil and special scrubs have been developed. Doctors also prescribe various agents which can kill the worms.
  • There have also been several recent more advanced methods. These include thermal pulsation therapy, MiBoFlo, BlephEx, etc. However, these aren’t common practices as of yet. And their efficacies haven’t been widely studied too. But these can be the future of treatment of blepharitis.

Home Remedies for Blepharitis

There are several home remedies for blepharitis. Doctors even recommend some of these remedies above drugs. 

Some of the important ones are:

  • Keeping eyelids clean is the most important when it comes to blepharitis. It is the first-line therapy for this condition. You can try using warm wet compresses to your affected eyes. This can be done for five to ten minutes. This can increase blood flow and help clear out the debris. Then you can dilute baby shampoo and wash the margins of the eyelid.
  • If you have dry eye problems, then you can use eye lubricants. There are many over-the-counter lubricants that can help in this case.
  • If you have other underlying conditions which may cause blepharitis, then it’s best to keep those under control. It’s also best to practice proper skin and hair care. Because dandruff and mites in the hair and skin can increase the chance of blepharitis.
  • Massaging the eyelids lightly, staying hydrated, avoiding dust and rinsing are other things you can also try.
  • Eye makeup can act as irritants and make your blepharitis worse. So, it’s best to avoid those when you have the disease.

FAQs

Does caffeine cause blepharitis?

Answer: No, caffeine doesn’t cause blepharitis. Previous research showed that caffeine might cause dry eyes which might lead to blepharitis. But now, recent research shows that a mild to moderate amount of caffeine helps prevent dry eyes.

Can coffee cause eye problems?

Answer: Mild to moderate amounts of caffeine is not bad for the eyes. Rather it can improve circulation and tear secretion. However, caffeine is also linked to increased intraocular pressure (IOP) which predisposes to developing glaucoma.

Is blepharitis caused by poor hygiene?

Answer: Yes, poor hygiene is an important cause of blepharitis. Poor hygiene can lead to infection by various pathogens which is what blepharitis is most of the time.

Conclusion

Much to the delight of coffee-lovers, caffeine can’t be blamed for blepharitis. As we’ve said, there is no research establishing a link between caffeine and blepharitis. But recent research shows that a moderate amount of caffeine might help with dry eyes.

Hope this article has cleared out all your confusions regarding this matter.

Samin Ishmam

Samin Ishmam

I'm an aspiring medical student. Studying for tests is a huge part of my life right now, but I try to keep up with the latest innovations in science by reading research papers and attending conferences. My interests lie mainly in cardiology among other fields of medicine. And I love being able to help people get through the low points in their lives, which is why I've chosen this field as my profession. Outside of studies, I love writing and trying to spread knowledge on healthy living among everyone.

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