10 Negative Effects Alcohol Has On The Eyes
30 December 2019
“Dry January is the UK's one-month booze-free challenge that helps millions reset their relationship with alcohol every year”
A reported 4.2million people in the UK vowed to complete dry January in 2019; 1.1million more than 2018. After the remnants of Christmas party season, it’s easy to see why.
There are many health benefits to giving up the booze; reduced blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease and a better immune system are to name but a few.
So if you’re sick of waking up blurry eyed, give dry January a go and see for yourself the positive impact it has on your health.
Read on for a different take on getting blind drunk…
Age-related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) refers to the deterioration of the central part of the retina (light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye), known as the macula. Roughly 600,000 people in the UK are affected.
The American Optometric Association has linked excessive alcohol consumption as a risk factor for AMD. As well as limiting alcohol intake, there are measures those in the early stages of AMD can take to slow the development of the disease.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet can dramatically improve the condition of the eyes; particularly diets high in plant based foods. Although diet alone will not stop AMD from developing, it may help to slow the progression.
Consuming even a small amount of alcohol has been found to accelerate the symptoms of dry eye syndrome. These symptoms may include watery eyes, stinging or burning sensations in the eyes, sensitivity to light, redness, discomfort and eye fatigue.
These symptoms should clear up on their own, once the alcohol is out of your system; however in severe cases treatment is needed.
Numerous studies have revealed an increased risk of cataract development in patients with higher alcohol consumption. A group of Swedish researchers concluded that people who drank everyday were around 11% more likely to need cataract surgery later in life compared to non-drinkers.
Cataracts are most prevalent in people aged 65 and over; who describe living with the condition as if looking through frosted glass. Lens replacement is the only treatment available, in which the infected lens is removed and permanently replaced with an artificial one.
Eyes need vitamins to remain healthy (you can read up on the top vitamins for optimal eye health here). Heavy drinking drains the body’s reserve of vital vitamins and nutrients; which can result in a condition known as optic neuritis.
Optic neuritis refers to the inflammation of the optic nerve (responsible for sending messages from the eye to the brain). Symptoms include blurry vision, loss of colour vision, headaches and loss of central vision.
Symptoms will usually subside with no medical intervention, once excessive drinking has stopped; however in severe cases there may be permanent damage to the optic nerve.
Vitamin A Deficiency
Excessive alcohol intake inhibits the liver's ability to absorb vital vitamins. This can lead to a deficiency in vitamin A, which is a very important nutrient for the eyes.
Eyes need vitamin A to provide nourishment to the cornea. Without enough vitamin A, night blindness, thinning of the cornea, corneal perforation, dryness, and in some cases blindness due to retinal damage may occur.
You may be surprised to hear that vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children worldwide. An estimated 500,000 children become blind every year because of it.
Damaged Eye Muscles
Excessive drinking over a long period of time causes damage to brain cells; ultimately decreasing the speed of communication between the optic nerve and the brain. This means that the coordination of the eye muscles are weakened. As a result, vision may be permanently distorted.
Slower Pupil Reaction
Alcohol causes a decrease in the pupils’ reaction times and the iris’ ability to dilate. This is a cause for concern for drivers, because their eyes cannot adapt as quickly to oncoming headlights; even if they are still within the legal drink, drive limit.
Decreased Contrast Sensitivity
A Western University study found that alcohol reduces the eye’s ability to adjust vision for brightness and contrast by 30% at a blood alcohol level of 50mg/100ml (the legal drink driving limit).
Myokymia is the medical term for eye twitching; which is actually the eyelid twitching. This can be accelerated by excessive alcohol intake. For heavy drinkers, this twitch can persist for days and although it’s harmless, it’s extremely irritating.
Seek medical advice if you have had an eye twitch that has lasted for more than two weeks.
Have you ever woken up after a heavy night out to red bloodshot eyes? This is because alcohol causes the tiny blood vessels in the eyes to dilate, causing more blood to flow through them.
If you need to show your face in public, luckily there are a few home remedies that may help with the appearance. Simply holding a cold compress to closed eyes is often effective. The sudden drop in temperature will constrict the blood vessels and bring the redness down.
Here’s what happens to your body after abstaining from alcohol for one month:
- Red blood cells will begin to renew. Resulting in better blood flow and oxygen supply to vital organs.
- Skin has much better levels of hydration and appearance improves.
- Your liver will start to shed excess fat.
- The body has a better chance of removing contaminants, converting food nutrients, storing minerals and vitamins.
The occasional drink will not harm your health in any major negative way; however consistent consumption or binge drinking can have very undesirable effects on your mind, body and of course, the eyes. Try to stick to the recommended weekly unit allowance.
Back to Blog