Anyone who consumes alcohol knows the short-term effects of heaving drinking on eyes, which can result in reduced, blurry, and distorted vision. But for the most part, fortunately, most of these effects are temporary.
However, heavy drinkers face lasting, long-term, and possible permanent damage to their eyesight. It should come as no surprise – after all, excessive alcohol intake can affect pretty much every organ in the human body.
Simply put, heavy drinking puts persons at a higher risk of developing eye conditions which may alter eyesight and contribute to vision decline.
Patients prone to long-term, heaving drinking, are at increased risk for cataract formation, according to multiple studies.
Cataracts are cloudy formations which cause the lens of the eye to become cloudy, and therefore, results in blurred vision.
Also, alcoholics are at a greater risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a common eye condition, and also a major cause of vision loss among people over age 50.
During this process, the macula, or the spot near the center of the retina, becomes damaged. The macula is needed for clear and accurate central vision, or seeing objects straight ahead of us.
Vision can also suffer due to vitamin deficiencies. For example, vitamin B1, or thiamine, is a common deficiency in alcoholics due to compromised vitamin absorption by the liver. This deficiency can result in weakness or even paralysis of eye muscles. Additionally, vitamin A deficiency can contribute to a thinning cornea, dryness, and even blindness due to retinal damage.
If you are a smoker and a drinker, you may have an additional problem to worry about. Optic neuropathy (tobacco-alcohol amblyopia) is painless, but may result in decreased peripheral vision, reduced color vision, or in some cases, a complete loss of vision.
Amblyopia is also known as “lazy eye.” Vitamin deficiency and/or the toxic effects of these two substances are believed to the be the root causes of this condition.
According to 2011 Indian study, amblyopia is “rare”, but debilitating:
“Almost all patients complain of a blurring or dimness of vision and of difficulty in reading small prints. Occasionally patients may complain of difficulty in differentiating red from green. The disease usually evolves over a period of several weeks to several months.”
The Vision Threat
Heaving drinking slows the communication between brain neurotransmitters. The brain requires that these neurotransmitters communicate (both send and receive) signals to the body. This delayed communication can cause the eye muscles to weaken.and become uncoordinated. In, pupil reaction time suffers, and thus they do not constrict and dilate in a manner appropriate to the level of light. Thus, colors and shades become impaired.
Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome
Chronic dry eye syndrome is a very uncomfortable, and potentially debilitating condition. I myself suffer from this condition.
I can tell you this based on my own experience – it can result in discomfort, pain, reduced/blurry vision, irritation, and sensations of having foreign objects in your eye.
Dry eye syndrome is caused by a decrease in tear production, resulting in insufficient eye lubrication on the surface of the eye. Women are most often affected, especially women, such as myself, reaching their middle-aged years.
The intake of any substance which serves as a diuretic can contribute to this problem. As a recovering alcoholic, I can tell you that I am 100% sure that the dehydration I have experienced from chronic alcohol use has exacerbated this problem to a large degree.
Alcohol consumption by itself may not cause dry eye syndrome, but research has shown that heaving drinking is definitely an instigating factor. For example, a 2012 study by the Hallym University College of Medicine revealed that drinking alcohol can directly affect the ocular surface.
In the study, findings indicated that alcohol consumption was related to tear hyperosmolarity (less water and more salt) and a significantly shortened tear breakup time in those participants who consumed it. These are factors which contribute to dry eye.
In addition, smoking, anti-depressants, painkillers, and myriad of other OTC and prescription medicine can contribute to dry eye, as well. If you spend a lot of time looking a computer screen, this is likely another contributing factor.
To add insult to injury, alcoholism and dehydration can also contribute to migraine headaches, which in of themselves can cause visual disturbances such as dizziness, zig-zag lines and/or the appearance of “heat waves.”
Fortunately, if you stop drinking, some of these effects (such as dryness) may go away on their own. However, if you are having eyesight troubles, you should visit an eye doctor for an exam, regardless of your drinking status.