In 2016, an estimated 3 million people died globally from harmful use of alcohol, according to the World Health Organisation’s global status report on alcohol and health. Alcohol can cause serious damage and injury, whether directly through abuse of the substance or triggering another disease such as liver disease or road accidents.
This is the type of health risk that most people would associate with heavy drinking, but did you know that alcohol can affect your eyes too? There can be both short and long-term effects to your vision and eye health due to excessive alcohol and it’s important to be aware of both.
Short-term effects of alcohol on your vision
Drinking alcohol will slow down reactions and therefore reflexes will be slower, this is one of the main reasons why it’s dangerous and illegal to drink and drive. This slow reaction also affects your vision, with a slower pupil reaction, making it more difficult to clearly distinguish between different objects based on lightness and darkness.
Alcohol can cause blurry and distorted vision and while everyone reacts differently to different amounts of alcohol, you will likely experience this at some point. There is a delay between the brain and the eyes due to the slow pace of communication between neurotransmitters in the brain which weakens the eye muscle coordination.
Over consumption of alcohol can also result in an increasing occurrence of dry eye and eyelid twitching. Symptoms like these will likely stop once you have stopped drinking.
Long-term effects of alcohol on your vision
Long-term effects of alcohol abuse can have detrimental consequences on your vision and eye health. In extreme cases, toxic amblyopia, the result of a toxic reaction in the optic nerve which causes permanent vision loss.
Excessive alcohol may increase your risk of age-related macular degeneration; WHO’s report revealed that the average person’s daily consumption is 33g of pure alcohol, which is the equivalent of 2 glasses of wine. A study in Australia revealed that drinking more than 20g of alcohol a day results in a 20% increased chance of developing early AMD compared to those who consume no alcohol.
Poor diet and over-consumption of alcohol may also be related to developing cataracts.
Prolonged alcohol abuse will eventually affect your vision through vitamin deficiency. The liver can only process so much alcohol at a time and heavy drinking can affect the absorption of vitamins in the liver which are needed to maintain healthy eyes and good vision.
Studies have shown that too much alcohol consumption can actually change eye movements in young adults; alcohol affects various areas of the central nervous system, including visual functions.
It is advised that you consider the recommended units of alcohol. You should also remember to attend regular eye examinations as your optician can help to identify any problems with your vision.