The purpose of this study was to investigate the acute effects of caffeine on retinal hemodynamics during dark to light adaptation using optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA).
Thirteen healthy individuals (13 eyes) underwent OCTA imaging after dark adaptation and at repeated intervals during the transition to ambient light in two imaging sessions: control and after ingesting 200 mg of caffeine. We analyzed the parafoveal vessel density (VD) and adjusted flow index (AFI) of the superficial capillary plexus (SCP), middle capillary plexus (MCP), and deep capillary plexus (DCP), as well as the vessel length density (VLD) of the SCP. After adjusting for age, refractive error, and scan quality, we compared parameters between control and caffeine conditions.
In the dark, MCP VD decreased significantly after caffeine (-2.63 ± 1.28%). During the transition to light, initially, DCP VD increased (12.55 ± 2.52%), whereas SCP VD decreased (-2.09 ± 0.91%) significantly with caffeine compared to control. By 15 minutes in light, DCP VD reversed and was significantly decreased (-5.45 ± 2.62%), whereas MCP VD increased (4.65 ± 1.74%). There were no differences in AFI or VLD.
We show that, overall, caffeine causes a trend of delayed vascular response in all three macular capillary plexuses in response to ambient light. Whereas the MCP is constricted in the dark, during the transition from dark to light, there is initially delay followed by prolonged constriction of the DCP and constriction followed by slow dilation of the SCP. We posit that these delayed vascular responses may present potential risk of capillary ischemia.