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The benefits of reducing or cutting out alcohol on eye health

January is when millions of adults focus in on their alcohol intake – and all eyes are on the health benefits associated with a month off the booze. But did you know that health benefits extend to your eye health and vision? (Spoiler alert: and it’s not just about blurred vision while under the influence when it comes to eyes and booze!)

Dr Andy Hepworth from the UK’s leading corrective optical lens manufacturer Essilor.co.uk explains some of the lesser known eye health implications of excess alcohol and benefits of Dry January.

It has been well documented that the events of the past two years have led to an increase in alcohol sales, however recent figures show an uplift in people purchasing no or low alcohol alternatives and currently millions of people are taking part in Dry January 2022 (it’s estimated 7.9 million people in the UK planned to take part according to alcoholchange.org).

Whilst the benefits of not drinking are relatively well-known (improvements in your waistline, sleep, and wallet to name but a few), research from the Royal Free Hospital has documented that a month booze-free can also lower blood, pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes, lower cholesterol and reduce levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.

“Alcohol does have an impact on eyes,” says Dr Andy Hepworth, “and it’s not just the blurred vision effect while under the influence. Over-consumption of alcohol can cause both short and long-term effects on your vision and eye health.

“When you drink you can experience blurry vision because alcohol can cause a delay between the brain and the eyes; your reactions naturally slow down and reflexes become slower. So this affects your pupils too, making it more difficult to distinguish between objects based on brightness.

“While symptoms like the above will usually disappear once the alcohol in your system has lessened, there are some more detrimental consequences to your eye health if you drink excessively in the long-term.

“Heavy drinking can affect absorption of vitamins over time, leading to a vitamin deficiency which could in turn affect your eyesight. The liver can only process so much alcohol at a time and heavy drinking can affect the absorption of vitamins in the liver which are needed to maintain healthy eyes and good vision.

“By reducing your alcohol intake, you may reduce blood pressure which is great for lessening your risk of a heart attack or stroke, and it can bring down the potential to experience hypertensive retinopathy, a condition that damages the blood vessels in your eye. Reduced intake of alcohol or no alcohol at all can also reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration, and lessen your chances of developing cataracts. Both of these eye conditions are closely linked to factors like alcohol, as well as other lifestyle factors.

“Alcohol is a diuretic which means it can make you dehydrated. In some cases, dehydration can lead to dry eye syndrome. This can cause irritation and may increase your risk of eye infections. However, within a week of not drinking your body can undo the effects of dehydration, especially if you are drinking enough water.”

Andy concludes:

“With an increase in screentime and missed eye examinations over the past two years, our eyes could do with some TLC and Dry January is a great place to start.

“While the above symptoms are usually associated with regular heavy drinking over a long period of time, it’s still important to keep an eye on your alcohol intake and what effect it might be having on your body. Dry January can give you an opportunity to reset your health, including the health of your eyes.”

For more information please visit www.essilor.co.uk