Age-related vision changes are normal, but if your vision is declining at an alarming rate, there may be a simple yet surprising explanation. It is true that your eyes change over time but, researchers have uncovered, one lifestyle habit (a very common one) is increasing the risk of blindness.
Binge drinking contributes to blindness
There have been numerous studies which have pointed to excessive alcohol drinking and negative health outcomes, so it should be of no surprise that it can also impede on your vision, too.
The study carried out by Dr. David Teenan found that binge drinking, or excessive alcohol consumption, can lead to damage in the eyes and thus contribute to blindness.
Right off the bat, when people drink too much, alcohol affects their vision. It becomes blurry, or even doubled, and although that is a temporary state, excessive alcohol consumption does have a lasting impact associated with age-related macular degeneration.
Alcohol is a toxic substance and too much of it actually works to kill off the body’s own cells. Because the nerves in the eyes are so delicate, they are much more prone to such damage. Dr. Teenan explained, “Toxins from alcohol in the blood stream will also reduce the flow of nutrients to the nerves and macula – the part of the eye that helps us focus our vision – leading to macular degeneration. Exceeding the government’s recommended maximum weekly intake of 14 units on a regular basis is dangerous and can lead to trouble further down the line. Prolonged heavy drinking can seriously impact eye health including the formation of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and in some cases complete blindness. A whole new meaning for the phrase ‘blind drunk’.”
Macular degeneration affects central vision, disrupting the proper function of the involved area of the eye – known as the macula. Reading becomes increasingly difficult, colors appear less vibrant, and in severe cases faces may get unrecognizable. Dr. Teenan continued, “As well as long-term risks, a high alcohol intake can cause significant short-term problems for our vision. Alcohol reduces brain activity, causing vision to fluctuate, impairing how we judge distances.”
He noted that heavy drinking can also change the physical appearance of the eyes.
Those of older age are at the greatest risk because their bodies don’t metabolize alcohol as in their younger years. Already weakened optic nerves combined with devastating effects of alcohol leads to a higher risk of blindness due to macular degeneration.
Moderating your alcohol drinking is always a good idea for the benefit of your eyes and your overall health, but it’s also important to go for regular eye exams to spot changes in the eyes early on.