Alcohol consumption can have both temporary and permanent effects on your eyesight and overall eye health. The good news is that a glass of wine with dinner now and then is not going to hurt you; however, excessive drinking can.
There is no one definitive amount of alcohol that can be consumed daily before problems arise, because everyone’s tolerance varies. Generally speaking, moderate drinking equals one or two drinks per day. If you stray above that level too frequently, there can be some serious consequences for your vision, both immediate and cumulative.
Your eyes are already somewhat sensitive to light. Alcohol can compound this effect, making your eyes less tolerant of bright lights. This can lead to an increased occurrence of migraine headaches. Not to mention, excessive alcohol consumption causes those bloodshot, painful eyes commonly seen in heavy drinkers. This is because alcohol dilates the blood vessels in your eyes.
Optic nerve damage
You don’t actually “see” with your eyes. The job of processing light and making images out of it rests squarely with your brain. Your eyes are just the receptor for the optic regions of you brain.
The optic nerve is what carries visual images to your brain for processing, and excessive alcohol can permanently damage it. Unlike other kinds of eye trauma, optic nerve damage is not fixable. Thus, any damage may result in permanently weakened vision.
Rapid eye movement
REM is necessary for proper, deep sleep. However, your eyes should not be uncontrollably moving outside of the deepest moments of your sleep cycle. Prolonged alcohol use has been linked to involuntary rapid eye movement, even during waking hours.
Weakened peripheral vision
Those who consume alcohol excessively often experience something called tunnel vision. This occurs when only objects in your immediate line of vision can be seen with clarity. Alcohol dulls your peripheral vision to the point where it creates this tunnelling effect.
Tunnel vision is one of the many reasons why people under the influence of alcohol cannot properly and safely operate machinery or drive cars.
This is one of the scarier and more permanent effects of alcohol on eye health. Sometimes called tobacco-alcohol amblyopia, optic neuropathy can mean a loss of overall vision and color vision specifically. This condition can also arise from nutritional deficiencies, making it common in areas where people do not have access to nutritious whole foods.
The good news is that most of these serious eye conditions are preventable simply by monitoring your alcohol intake. Drink responsibly, or abstain from drinking if possible, and your eyes will likely remain healthy for years to come.
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