Effects of Alcohol on Eyes

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 14-Oct-2013

alcoholsmallExcessive alcohol consumption comes with numerous physical dangers and health risks. Commonly known health risks associated with alcohol abuse include: neurological problems, heart disease, cancer and liver disease. One lesser-known health consequence of excessive alcohol consumption is vision problems.

How does alcohol affect eyesight?

Optic neuropathy or “alcoholic optic neuritis,” is perhaps the most serious eye condition caused by excessive alcohol consumption. This condition affects the central visual field and how well one sees and differentiates between colors. Smoking can also lead to optic neuropathy. Over time, this condition can result in total vision loss or blindness.

Another vision problem related to alcohol use is a decrease in contrast sensitivity. Essentially, someone with low contrast sensitivity may have a difficult time distinguishing between different shades of gray. This can be a dangerous vision problem as it can affect ability to drive in rainy or foggy conditions.

Alcohol also affects how quickly the pupils respond to changes in lighting. In a healthy eye, the pupil constricts and dilates rapidly under a change in lighting conditions. When this reaction is damaged by alcohol use, the pupils respond slowly to changes in lighting, which can affect the ability to see the headlights of other vehicles or road signs when driving.

These aren’t the only ways in which alcohol can affect your eyesight. Alcohol use may also cause:

  • Cataracts
  • Dry eyes
  • Eyelid twitching
  • Short-term double vision
  • Inflammation in the eye causing ocular rosacea

How much alcohol is too much?

Rather than asking the question “how much alcohol can I drink before it affects my health or vision?” set your mind to moderate your alcohol use. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. (12 fluid ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits equal one drink.) Keep in mind all of the dangerous health consequences of alcohol use, including liver failure, cancer, heart disease and vision problems. Loss of vision due to alcohol use results in numerous physical hazards. If you can’t see clearly, you will have difficulty driving, walking across the street, or even moving around your own home.

If you are experiencing trouble with your vision, whether you drink alcohol or not, it’s important to have your eyes examined. Vision problems may be an indicator of a more serious problem that could result in total loss of vision. Don’t wait. Call the eye health experts at Key-Whitman Eye Center today.

Categories: Eye Health
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