Published On: Mon, Sep 16th, 2019

Why does drinking hurt your eyes?

Alcohol is not the best for your health; that’s nothing new. There are countless articles and studies on the ways that alcohol harms you, but the damage it can do to the eyes is one that isn’t often talked about. Who hasn’t had their vision blurred or distorted after a few glasses of wine? Alcohol reduces your field of vision, the ability to perceive movement and the capacity of the pupil to shrink and dilate. That’s one of the reasons why drunk driving is a terrible idea.

To get an expert’s insight into how alcohol affects our vision, we talked to leading optician Brendan O’Brien from online contact lens retailer Vision Direct.

Drinking and vision

Bad drinking habits can lead to various problems in your vision, such as symptoms linked to dry eyes. Alcohol causes the blood vessels in the eye to swell, resulting in irritation, itching and redness. 

These symptoms are more prominent if contact lenses are worn, even those with the best oxygen permeability or ones composed of hydrophilic materials. Not only that, the symptoms of dryness can also be accompanied by a greater sensitivity to light and an annoying flickering of the eyelid. Fortunately, these are short-term effects, which can be tried at the end of an alcohol-filled evening, but which go away after a few days – if not hours – of abstinence.

Drinking plenty of alcoholic beverages on a regular basis could also lead to permanent eye damage. Alcohol can in fact irreparably compromise the functionality of the optic nerve, which transmits information of what the eye sees to the brain. However, this applies to those with a severe alcoholism problem, and not to the occasional one or two glasses of wine every now and then.

Public domain image/ Aarynne at the wikipedia project

What could happen to your eyes?

One of the greatest permanent damage that alcohol can cause is the onset of cataracts. Some studies have shown greater exposure to this phenomenon in patients who consume alcohol regularly. Drinking also accelerates the risk of macular degeneration, the worsening of eyesight that tends to occur naturally with age.

Another effect attributed to alcohol consumption is vitamin deficiency. Drinking excessively reduces the ability to absorb the essential vitamins for healthy eyesight in the liver. For example, a deficiency of vitamin B-1 can cause weakness or paralysis of the eye muscles; while a deficiency of vitamin A can cause blindness in the dark, thinning of the cornea, perforation of the cornea, dryness and even blindness due to damage to the retina. 

Finally, for pregnant women, alcohol can compromise the quality of vision that their child will have after birth. According to a study, some vision problems are linked to fetal-alcohol disorders, which could modify the shape of the unborn child’s face. As for the eyes, these disorders can prevent the optic nerve from developing completely, and can increase the chances of strabismus and drooping eyelids.

There are no magic potions to avoid alcohol-related problems. The most effective solution is also the most trivial: moderate consumption. If you can’t do it yourself, there’s nothing wrong with asking for professional support.

Author: Diane Popescu

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