Brits who drink too much risk long-term damage to their eyesight and even blindness, health experts have warned.
Men and women are advised to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. People that exceed this on a regular basis risk permanent damage to their eyes as they age, such as cataracts or age-related macular degeneration.
To coincide with Alcohol Awareness Week and with the festive season fast approaching, eye health experts revealed how drinking booze affects the eyes in the short and long-term.
1. Drinking can cause dry eyes.
Ever woken up with dry, red eyes after a boozy night out? Dry eye, which is caused by drinking, typically causes eyes to feel scratchy and uncomfortable, according to experts from Optical Express.
A previous study from Hallym University College of Medicine supports this, suggesting that even drinking a small amount of alcohol could increase symptoms of dry eye.
Most cases are mild and easily treated however in severe cases, such as when tear glands stop working, treatment is needed to prevent visual impairment.
2. It can cause temporary vision problems.
Yes, beer goggles are a thing. But they’re no laughing matter. Amy Laux, clinical governance manager at Optical Express, has warned that the toxins in alcohol can easily damage the optic nerve and affect vision.
She said: “Alcohol also reduces brain activity, which causes vision to fluctuate, in turn impairing how we judge distances.”
3. It might cause permanent problems as you age.
“It’s really important for people to understand the long-term health implications that binge drinking can bring with it. By regularly exceeding the recommended maximum weekly intake of 14 units, it can lead to health implications further down the line,” explained Laux.
“Alcohol is linked to over sixty medical conditions and can be the trigger for early onset of age-related macular degeneration, causing a drinker to lose focus in their central field of vision.”
David Cartwright, chairperson of the charity Eye Health UK, told HuffPost UK: “Whilst a small amount of red wine can be beneficial for your eyes – it contains powerful antioxidants – too much alcohol could potentially contribute to sight loss.
“Excess alcohol can interfere with your liver functions and reduce the production of glutathione. Glutathione prevents a particular kind of cell damage that can lead to the development of cataract, glaucoma and retinopathy.”
An RNIB spokesperson added research as to whether drinking alcohol within the recommended safe limits can affect the risk of developing these eye conditions is “inconclusive”. However they told HuffPost UK that drinking heavily on a regular basis “can be toxic to the eye, in combination with poor diet”.
4. In severe cases, it may cause blindness.
Excessive drinking over a long period of time can, in some instances, cause blindness, according to Laux, especially if a person increases their alcohol consumption in later life.
This is because the metabolism slows down, meaning drinkers break down toxins at a slower rate. Plus, vision commonly deteriorates with age as the optic nerve weakens.
Laux added: “With the festive season fast approaching we strongly advise that people stick to the recommended guidelines of alcohol consumption i.e. not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, as those who exceed this could be putting their eyesight in danger.”