There’s not enough evidence to conclude that drinking coffee can worsen blepharitis symptoms. Caffeine doesn’t seem to dry out or irritate the eyes, and coffee may have an anti-inflammatory and tear-producing effect.

Blepharitis is a common condition characterized by eyelid inflammation.

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • eye swelling, itchiness, burning, or stinging
  • increased eye watering
  • a sensation that something’s stuck in your eye
  • light sensitivity
  • foamy tears
  • dry eyes
  • crusty eyelids

In more severe cases, blepharitis may also lead to:

  • blurred vision
  • eyelash shedding
  • irregular eyelash growth
  • other areas of your eye swelling

To date, no scientific evidence directly links drinking coffee with worsened blepharitis symptoms.

Here’s what to know about the potential relationship between coffee consumption and blepharitis.

Optometrist and dry eye specialist Dr. Bobby Saenz explains that there are two main types of blepharitis:

  • Anterior blepharitis affects the outside of your eye, between your lashes and eyelid. It typically occurs due to dandruff from the scalp or brows, bacteria growth, or mites. “Caffeine and coffee don’t impact anterior blepharitis,” Saenz says.
  • Posterior blepharitis is also called meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). This type of dry eye disease occurs when oil glands in the eyes become blocked. Consuming coffee and other caffeine may affect this condition, but experts don’t have enough evidence to know for sure.

For years, some experts have suspected a link between caffeine consumption and dry eye syndrome. And since dry eye syndrome can contribute to MGD, this has led experts to draw connections between blepharitis and caffeine.

But in a 2019 research review, researchers found limited anecdotal evidence suggesting that consuming caffeine in coffee, tea, soda, or chocolate may worsen MGD.

Since caffeine is a stimulant, researchers theorized that heavy consumption could lead to increased retraction of the eyelids. This retraction leaves more of the eye’s surface exposed, which may cause tear film to stretch to unstable levels.

Caffeine might also increase your blink rate and cause blepharospasms (eye twitching). The researchers also suggested caffeine, as a diuretic, could lead to dehydration.

But Saenz says this commonly-held belief is false. In actuality, caffeine increases thesecretion of tears, he says.

Plus, additional evidence contradicts the anecdotal findings from the 2019 review. In an extensive 2018 study, researchers found no evidence to support caffeine consumption as a risk factor for dry eye disease. A 2023 study including more than 85,000 participants echoed this finding.

Currently, there needs to be more research on the subject for experts to link caffeine consumption with any eye condition conclusively.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Benjamin H. Ticho, who treats many people with blepharitis, adds that while the condition has many factors that can be aggravating, caffeine isn’t one of them.

Based on the research, Saenz agrees people with dry eye disease can continue to keep drinking caffeine without issue — unless they also have rosacea, which this article covers in more depth below.

Could drinking coffee actually improve blepharitis?

Blepharitis is a condition involving inflammation, and a wealth of evidence suggests coffee may help reduce inflammation.

For example, authors of a small 2017 review concluded that coffee seems to have a strong anti-inflammatory component, even though caffeine on its own doesn’t. Experts have yet to discover the exact reason for this, but some believe it relates to the antioxidants in coffee.

A 2023 review suggests caffeine can increase tear film stability and tear production, which may help soothe symptoms of posterior blepharitis.

Saenz did emphasize, however, that current evidence doesn’t yet support the idea that caffeine consumption could improve blepharitis.

Was this helpful?

The main causes and risk factors for blepharitis include:

  • bacteria buildup
  • bacterial infections
  • eyelash mites or lice
  • rosacea
  • medication side effects
  • oil glands not functioning as they should
  • allergic reactions to makeup or cosmetics
  • dandruff on your scalp or eyebrows

Saenz says rosacea is a major cause of blepharitis, and caffeine may provoke rosacea flare-ups.

As a result, if you have rosacea, you may find that drinking caffeine triggers a rosacea flare that causes or worsens blepharitis.

Experts have yet to find a cure for blepharitis, but you can manage your symptoms in many ways.

First, it can help keep your eyes clean and crust-free.

Here’s how:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  2. Mix lukewarm water with a mild cleanser, such as baby shampoo.
  3. Soak a clean washcloth in the cleanser-water mix.
  4. Hold the cloth against one eye for a minute or two to soothe your eyelid and loosen up any crustiness. This can also help open up your oil glands.
  5. Gently move the cloth back and forth, especially around the area where your eyelashes and eyelids meet.
  6. Rinse your eye with clean, warm water.
  7. Repeat on the other eye.

Getting treatment can help you prevent other eye health concerns, like:

These conditions can become serious, so consider making an appointment with an eye doctor if your symptoms persist for more than a few days.

An eye doctor can recommend the right treatment plan, which may include:

  • Eye drops: They may prescribe steroid eye drops to reduce swelling, redness, and irritation. Over-the-counter artificial tears can also help ease your symptoms.
  • Medication: If your doctor suspects bacteria has caused your blepharitis, they may recommend antibiotic pills, ointments, or eye drops.
  • Addressing underlying conditions: Since conditions like dandruff or rosacea may play a role in blepharitis, treating these could help improve your eye symptoms.

If you experience extreme pain or discomfort, blurred vision, or any other symptoms that affect your daily life and routine, it’s best to get medical attention right away.

No conclusive evidence points to a link between coffee consumption and worsening blepharitis.

Drinking coffee may help reduce inflammation and improve eye swelling, redness, and inflammation associated with blepharitis.

Experts need to conduct more research before they come to any specific conclusions. But a daily cup of coffee usually won’t harm your eye health, even if you live with blepharitis.