The Facts About Alcohol and Your Vision

by
Brian Campbell

 

I’m sure that everyone has heard about the dangers of alcohol abuse at one time or another; increased risk of heart disease, liver disease, stroke, cancer, depression, the list goes on and on. Add to that the dangers of addiction, the risks of drinking and driving, or the effect excessive drinking can have on family relationships, friendships and job performance. They all paint a pretty bleak picture, yet some people just don’t get the message. So let’s add another effect that most people may not think of. Are you aware that excessive alcohol use can damage your eyes?

How does Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Vision?

To start with, it is important to mention that there is no record of any negative effects caused by having an occasional drink or two of an alcoholic beverage. And even though a one time binge of a large amount of alcohol may cause temporarily blurred and distorted vision, these effects will dissipate once the alcohol is out of your system. As long as you don’t do anything extremely foolish while you are intoxicated, such as attempting to drive a motor vehicle, a full recovery can be expected, in spite of the red, bloody looking eyes and severe headache you will likely experience the next morning. No, lasting negative effects usually come from long-term exposure to excessive amounts of alcohol. But for those who fall into this category, the effects may include light sensitivity, headaches and/or migraines, permanently red or bloodshot eyes, constant blinking or twitching eyelids, regular blurred or double vision, and more.

What Long-Term Effects Can Drinking Have on My Vision?

Over a period of time, excessive drinking begins to weaken the eye’s muscles, causing involuntary Rapid Eye Movement (REM), blinking or eyelid twitching usually associated with sleeping and dreams, except that this will occur while the person is awake and attempting to function. Other effects of weakened eye muscles include blurred or double vision, slow pupil reaction, making it difficult to adjust to different lighting, and decreased peripheral vision. Excessive alcohol use can also bring on early onset Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). From there it is a slippery slope.

How is Alcohol Connected to Optic Neuropathy?

Optic Neuropathy, also known as Tobacco-Alcohol Amblyopia or Toxic Amblyopia, is a serious condition which can decrease peripheral vision, colour vision, and may lead to complete vision loss. The condition is painless and is directly linked to the toxic effects of excessive drinking and/or smoking.

What Can I Do To Avoid Alcohol Related Vision Problems?

The best thing you can do for, not only your eye, but your whole body, is to limit your alcohol consumption. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have to give it up entirely, just be cautious about how much you drink. Don’t feel that you have to keep up with your buddies when you are drinking, take a break and have a glass of water, juice or coffee. Think seriously about how often you drink. When was the last time you went a day without drinking? Is your tolerance increasing; does it take more to get a “buzz”? These are warning signs. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to talk to both your family doctor and your optometrist. Don’t take chances with your health or your vision.

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