Dry January: How Alcohol Really Affects Your Eyes

January 6, 2017 12:03 pm

Each January, millions of people take the pledge to abstain from alcohol and go ‘dry’ during January. Going dry for January can have many benefits and allows us to ditch the hangover, lose some weight and save some money in the process.

It is no secret that drinking to excess puts the body under severe strain and can lead to serious health complications, but did you know how much your eyes could be at risk?

Before you start to panic, please remember that drinking in moderation is unlikely to harm your eye health, but long term abuse or short term binge drinking can damage your optic nerves. The optic nerves are used to carry visual information from the eyes to the brain. Toxic Amblyopia is a term used to describe damage to the optic nerve caused by under-nutrition or exposure to a substance harmful to the optic nerve such as alcohol.

Although it may affect your vision temporarily and can lead to blurred vision or momentary dizziness, drinking in moderation should not have any long term lasting effects on your eyesight. These symptoms generally disappear when you sober up.

Abusing alcohol can put you at a higher risk of developing eye conditions that can permanently damage your vision. It is for this reason that heavy drinkers are more likely to develop some degree of declining eyesight than those who drink in moderation.

Alcohol slows the communication between the brains neurotransmitters making it harder for information to pass between the brain and the body. Over time, this can weaken eye muscle co-ordination, causing double or distorted vision.

Other effects of alcohol consumption include bloodshot eyes caused by swollen blood vessels, ‘Myokmia’ (or the twitching of the eyelid) and an increased sensitivity to light due to migraines. Excessive drinking is also known to improve your ability to see contrasting colours or different shades by slowing down the reaction time of your pupils.

To minimise health risks caused by alcohol consumption, ‘Drink Aware’ recommend that men and women do not drink more than 14 units per week. This equates to:

  • 6 medium glasses of wine (12%)
  • 6 pints of mid-strength lager, ale or cider (4%)
  • 14 small servings of high-strength spirits (40%)

Cutting down on your alcohol intake offers many immediate benefits including:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Deeper and longer sleep
  • Improved mental health
  • Healthier appearance
  • More (hangover) free time
  • More money to spend

Going dry for January is a fantastic way to start the New Year, but if you want to make some major long-term changes to your health and well-being it is important to keep a close eye on your alcohol consumption throughout the other 11 months of the year. If you’ve decided to do Dry January for 2017, good luck for the month ahead!

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