Could Too Much Coffee Be Making You Blind?

A new study shows that drinking more than three cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of developing glaucoma. The Harvard study, published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, revealed that heavy consumption of caffeinated coffee is associated to developing exfoliation glaucoma, an eye disease that affects nearly 10 percent of adults above age 50.

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. Its most common type, primary open-angle glaucoma, has no noticeable symptoms until vision gradually depletes. Early treatment can minimize optic nerve damage, reduce intraocular pressure and limit vision loss.

Exfoliation glaucoma appears as tiny white flakes of dandruff that build up over the lens of the eye. The flakes rub off on the lens with movement of the iris, simultaneously pigment is rubbed off the iris. The pigment and flakes clog the eye’s ability to drain, which results in increased pressure. Cause of exfoliation glaucoma is still being tested, but genetics play a key role in development.

The Coffee Break Test

Harvard analyzed data in 79,000 women in the Nurses Health Study and over 42,000 men in the Health Professional Followup Study. The men and women, 40 and older, did not have glaucoma at the start of the study and attended scheduled eye exams from 1980 (women) and 1986 (men) until 2008. Analyzing questionnaires about the participants’ consumption of coffee, caffeinated drinks and their medical records, researchers gathered that the rise of exfoliation glaucoma was linked to those who drank three or more cups of coffee per day.

Is it Time to Cut Back?

Coffee consumption has a lot of benefits besides helping people stay awake. Coffee contains over 1,000 compounds that affect a person’s health, including decreasing risk of diabetes, improves digestive health, lowering the risk of strokes and many other perks.

Experts say that further research needs to be conducted to ultimately prove coffee’s relationship with glaucoma. Doctors suggest that patients with a family history of glaucoma should limit their intake of coffee to less than three cups per day to start taking steps of preventing the disease.

Coffee Replacements

Most people realize that coffee is a stimulant. Experts will even relate its effects to drugs. It perks up a person’s energy levels, but the effects of coffee are short term. Those who are used to having more than three cups a day will feel the pressure of trying to survive without it. However, there are healthy replacements for coffee, especially for those who feel like it is time to quit. Here are some alternatives to help the body maintain energy levels with limited or no caffeine coffee:

  • Eat a light breakfast

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day

  • Get more sleep

  • Eat small meals every three to four hours

  • Avoid processed foods

  • Snack on fruits, nuts and vegetables

  • Drink at least eight glasses of water a day

  • Replace a cup of coffee with coconut oil

There are  many health experts that say they are not cutting back on coffee just yet, but those of you who feel the need to help yourself prevent glaucoma should start cutting down on those cups of java. Visit an ophthalmologist regularly to ensure that your vision is healthy, and free of glaucoma. Give yourself the option to maintain healthy eyesight and see a specialist to check for glaucoma early and often.