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Coffee alert: 3 or more cups a day might raise glaucoma risk

3 or more cups of coffee a day linked to vision loss
3 or more cups of coffee a day linked to vision loss

Coffee has been touted for its health benefits. Some studies suggest drinking the beverage can cut risk of Alzheimer’s disease, protect from liver cancer and even thwart type 2 diabetes. But a new study published October 3, 2012 in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS) shows coffee lovers might have a higher risk of vision loss from a secondary type of glaucoma known as exfoliation glaucoma.

In the newest coffee investigation, researchers looked at the link between eye health and coffee drinking among women and men in the U.S. The study is the first to look at the effect of caffeine in coffee on eye health.

In the analysis that included 78,977 women from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and 41,202 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), the researchers found a link between the eye disease and drinking 3 or more cups of coffee a day.

What the study means to you is that researchers may have found a modifiable risk factor for glaucoma that wasn’t previously known.

Jae Hee Kang, ScD, of Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass said in a press release, "Because this is the first study to evaluate the association between caffeinated coffee and exfoliation glaucoma in a U.S. population, confirmation of these results in other populations would be needed to lend more credence to the possibility that caffeinated coffee might be a modifiable risk factor for glaucoma. It may also lead to research into other dietary or lifestyle factors as risk factors.”

No one knows what causes exfoliation glaucoma, which is another reason the study is important.

The condition happens when what looks like small flakes of dandruff that are pigments form deposits on the lens of the eye. When the eye moves and the pigment rubs off, pressure in the eyes become elevated; sometimes severely. The condition occurs worldwide.

The highest rates of the eye disease occurs in Scandinavia where coffee consumption is also high – an observation that led the researchers to explore the link further.

Getting a regular eye exam to check for glaucoma can help prevent exfoliation syndrome that, for some, can lead to increased eye pressure and vision loss. The new study suggests coffee might be a contributor to the eye disease, but more research is needed.

Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

“Exfoliation Syndrome”


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