Protect Your Vision

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How Alcohol Impacts Your Eyesight

Summertime gets sunny, and many of us resort to protecting our skin from the sun with a hat or sunscreen, or by staying in the shade.

We also are urged to protect our eyes from damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It’s a good idea since exposure to UV light can contribute to many eye problems, including cataracts. Some experts believe UV rays can speed along macular degeneration, too.

One quick way to protect the eyes is to shield them from the sun, particularly by wearing hats to block out harmful rays or donning sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. 

Another way to shield eyes is by having more of the good and less of the bad.

A healthy diet full of dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, or collard greens) and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, trout, and albacore tuna) is great for eye health.

So are maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, practicing eye safety, and getting regular eye exams. 

Drinking alcohol can be problematic for eye health, too. Most people are aware alcohol can contribute to liver or heart disease, but it can do more than that, both right away or over time.

Short-Term Effects

The functioning of the pupils is dimmed by alcohol use. The result is a slower reaction time

Someone who’s been drinking will experience a reduced ability to detect contrasts (light and dark) among objects. That can be especially problematic when driving during twilight.

Little irritations can flare, too, after casual drinking, including eye twitching, dryness, and redness.

Long-Term Effects

The longer a person abuses alcohol the higher the risk of lasting damage.

A person who drinks heavily for a long time is more vulnerable to developing cataracts and/or age-related macular degeneration.

Alcohol gets in the way of vitamin absorption, so if the eyes don’t get enough vision-boosting B-1 it could lead to weakened eye muscles. Vitamin A deficiencies can lead to night blindness and thinning of the cornea. In time it could result in permanent blindness.

The optic nerve can be damaged from drinking, too. That can lead to vision loss.

One other risk that occurs with heavy drinking is the onset of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Any amount of alcohol is considered dangerous to a developing fetus, but Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can result in an underdeveloped optic nerve and troubles with eye coordination.

Benefits of Saying No

The longer a person goes without alcohol, the more benefits they may see. Blood sugar levels stabilize and blurred vision goes away. In time the eye whites become clearer and brighter as liver health mends. Circulation improves so eyes receive more oxygen and nutrients to reduce the onset of disease. If a person’s blood pressure is high, that can go down, too. Blood flow and oxygen levels will improve, valuable tools in preventing disease. 

Sources – When you’re choosing sunglasses, does UV protection matter? – Healthy Vision Month – What is the Effect of Alcohol on the Eye? – How dry January affects your eye health

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance use disorder, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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