Age is unkind to the eyes but there are other factors that can hasten vision loss. According to eye surgery Optimax, the long term effects of excessive alcohol consumption can be “devastating”. There are many ways alcohol can scupper your vision but one of the most serious is optic neuropathy.
Optic neuropathy is a catch-all term that refers to damage inflicted on the optic nerve in your eye.
The condition is developed as a result of drinking or smoking excessively.
“Although painless, you begin to lose your vision, struggle to differentiate between colours and gradually lose your peripheral vision,” warns Optimax.
The health body continues: “This gets progressively worse over time and long-term consumption of alcohol on a regular basis is one of the main causes. It is also thought to be contributed to by the nutritional deficiencies which come with alcohol consumption.”
Alcohol intake can also produce a number of short-term effects on then eyes.
“Usually, you will not just experience blurry vision after drinking alcohol. Binge drinking can cause a number of problems with eye health, including symptoms associated with dry eye,” warns Optical Express.
Dry eye happens when your eyes don’t make enough tears to stay wet, or when your tears don’t work correctly.
According to Optical Express, the symptoms of dry eye include swollen blood vessels in the eyes which can give a bloodshot look, itchiness, irritation and fluctuation in vision.
“To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, both men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week,” advises the NHS.
A unit of alcohol is 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol, which is about:
According to the NHS, you could be misusing alcohol if you feel you should cut down on your drinking or other people have been criticising your drinking.
Other red flags include:
According to Harvard Health, certain vitamins and minerals found in food may play a role in preventing two common causes of vision problems: cataracts – cloudy areas in the lens of the eye – and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a condition that causes vision loss in the macula, the part of the eye that controls central vision.
“While there is no definite proof, some studies suggest that eating a diet rich in certain nutrients may help,” said Doctor Ivana Kim, associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.
Some evidence shows that dietary antioxidant vitamins and minerals (A, C, and E, and the mineral zinc) may help prevent the progression of macular degeneration.
“The retina, especially the macula, is thought to be an environment of high oxidative stress, meaning that there is an abundance of free radicals—molecules that damage proteins and DNA within cells. Antioxidants fight free radicals and are thought to help protect the retina from this damage,” explained Doctor Kim.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in the retina, and dietary intake of these compounds has been shown to have antioxidant properties and to improve pigment density in the macula.
This pigment protects the cells in the macular area by absorbing excess blue and ultraviolet light and neutralising free radicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin are usually found together in food.
Spinach, swiss chard, kale, parsley, pistachios, and green peas are among the best sources.