Various studies have been conducted around the area of alcohol and it’s impact on our health. There have been some reports about the benefits of small amounts of alcohol, we also know that have too much alcohol will have negative short and long-term health implications.
So does alcohol have an impact on our eyes?
In short, yes!
Here’s a list of some of the effects
Weakened Contrast Sensitivity: An important ability our eyes carry is being able to distinguish between objects, based on the contrast between darkness and light. This is important in our every day activities, and particularly important when driving at night. A Canadian study, at Western University, found alcohol reduces the eye’s ability to adjust for brightness and contrast, which makes it difficult to make distinctions between objects. Those with a blood alcohol level around the legal driving limit in Canada (which is the same as the UK and USA), saw their contrast sensitivity decrease by 30 per cent.
Decreased Pupil Reaction: Excessive drinking also decreases the reaction time of your pupils, meaning that they are unable to constrict or dilate when reacting to ambient light levels and impairs the ability see contrasting colours, or different shades of similar colours.
Slowed Communication Between your Eyes and Brain: Alcohol also slows the pace of communication between neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that communicate information around the brain and to the body. The delay in communication between the brain and the eyes means that they are not able to function effectively which weakens the eye muscle coordination. This is what causes distorted or double vision.
This Image displays the effect of alcohol on our eyesight after 0, 3 and 7 units of alcohol – Image By ClinicCompare
Dryness: Consuming even a serving or two of alcohol has been found to exacerbate symptoms of dry eye, as alcohol serves to dehydrate the body.
Twitching: Eyelid twitching (myokymia) can sometimes be triggered by the intake of an excessive amount of alcohol.
Increased Chance of Cataracts: Several studies have shown an increased formation of cataracts in patients who consumed higher amounts of alcohol.
Some other consequences of drinking too much are:
- Sensitivity to light due to migraines
- Red or bloodshot eyes caused by alcohol swelling the blood vessels in your eyes
- Rapid eye movement – an involuntarily movement back and forth
You can still enjoy an occasional drink, or night out with friends, and avoid many of these side-effects. Drinking alcohol in moderation and pace yourself (recommended to limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage per hour), don’t drink on an empty stomach and consume water between alcoholic drinks to prevent intoxication.
Our individual reactions to alcohol will be varied, but it’s wise to consider the recommended units of alcohol. For men it is advised to consume no more than 4 units in one day and 21 units per week, for women the recommended limit is 3 units a day and 14 units per week. If we stick to these guidelines we can still enjoy a glass of wine or craft beer, and maintain healthy bodies and eyes!