How Can Too Much Alcohol Negatively Affect Your Vision?
Drinking alcohol is one of the most abused substances in the world right now. In the USA alone, alcohol is known to kill more teenagers than all illegal drug cases combined. When drunk excessively, adverse effects in the body will begin to take a toll in different areas.
Whether you’re a casual or binge drinker, consistent alcohol consumption can affect you physically or psychologically. One thing that most people overlook in terms of their health is their eyes.
Alcohol abuse or excessive drinking can cause short-term blurred vision. Likewise, long-term alcoholism can factor in permanent damage to your eyes. Some effects include increasing the likelihood of developing cataracts and having a constantly blurred vision.
Here are some things you should know about alcoholism and how it can affect your vision.
How Much Alcohol Does It Take To Affect Your Body?
Alcohol is broken down by your liver through an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). Alcohol then undergoes several chemical changes until it eventually leaves the body as carbon dioxide, water, and other chemicals.
Differing amounts of alcohol can be broken down in different ways by your liver. However, when there is too much alcohol, the body may try to use an alternative metabolization pathway called the ‘microsomal ethanol-oxidizing system’. This alternative pathway takes up more energy and thus causes extraneous wear-and-tear on the body.
The liver can metabolize one standard serving of alcohol (0.6 ounces of pure alcohol in the US) per hour. This amount can be commonly found in the following:
12 ounces of 5% Alcohol Beer
8 ounces of 7% Alcohol Malt Liquor
5 ounces of 12% Wine
1.5 ounces of hard liquor at 40% Alcohol
To measure a person’s blood alcohol concentration level (BAC level), a percentage denotes the amount of alcohol present in the person’s bloodstream, meaning that a 0.10 BAC level denotes that 0.1% of your bloodstream is composed of alcohol.
Since body composition is relative, this means that the rates in which an individual’s BAC level changes may be affected by physical factors such as their body weight, muscle-to-fat ratio, gender, and genetics.
The higher the amount of alcohol intake, the higher the BAC. At different levels, the effects of alcohol can differ significantly. Here are some symptoms a person can expect at different BAC levels:
At 0.02%-0.04%: no obvious effects. Increased body heat, relaxation, and impeded judgment. Little to no loss of physical coordination, and other depressant effects are not yet apparent.
At 0.05%-0.07%: even greater body warmth. Possible facial flushing. Groggy behavior and less inhibited action. Louder voice, exaggerated behavior, and intensified emotions. Mood swings begin.
At 0.08%-0.09%: these amounts and beyond are considered above the legal limit in most states. It’s very likely that a person is considered unable to drive since their motor functions, reaction times, and physical coordination are all affected.
At 0.10%-0.14%: severely impaired judgment. Poor physical coordination happens that may cause stumbling, speech slur, emotional changes, and the onset of dysphoria (i.e., anxiety, restlessness). Blurry vision begins to set in at this point.
At 0.15%-0.19%: Severe loss of physical control and gross motor impairment. Significantly increased risk of accidental injury from blackouts and unconscious movement. High likelihood of vomiting. Poor sense of balance as well as definite vision changes such as blurred or double vision. Euphoria likely gives way to unpleasant emotions (dysphoria).
At 0.20% and above: these levels are already considered severe intoxication. Possible mental confusion, nausea, vomiting, and inability to walk properly. There is an increased risk of loss of consciousness, coma, or death due to respiratory failure.
How Does Too Much Alcohol Affect Your Vision?
Vision impairments from excessive alcohol consumption are very common. Blurry and double vision typically appear the moment a person reaches 0.08% BAC level but can vary from person to person. Historically, heavy alcohol consumption is seen to lead to dry eyes due to impeded natural eye lubrication generation.
Short-term effects of drinking also include changes in a person’s eye movement. Because alcohol can affect a person’s motor controls, including the eyes, a person may have difficulty focusing and locating visual objects.
Research also shows that alcohol abuse may lead to bilateral loss of vision from alcoholic amblyopia. Though this condition may be rare, it is more commonly found in those who smoke and have a poor dietary history.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) says that alcohol consumption may contribute to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disorder that contributes to legal blindness in people over the age of 60. AMD affects the central area of the retina which handles focusing and contributes to the image’s clarity.
Some studies also show that regular high alcohol consumption can lead to an increased risk of cataracts. This condition involves clouds in the lens of the eye, thus causing blurred vision. Without treatment, cataracts can cause blindness in one or both eyes. Cataracts typically develop due to old age, however, it is more likely to develop in adults who drink alcohol regularly.
How Can I Avoid Vision Problems Due To Alcohol?
First and foremost, avoiding alcoholic drinks is of course the best way to take care of your eyes when it comes to alcohol-related conditions. Binge drinking and other problematic alcohol consumption patterns can lead to side effects on your body, and not just in your eyes.
Although alcohol may inhibit some of your worries, a false sense of confidence is not worth long and short-term injuries and conditions that may pop up from your continuous drinking.
Alcoholism can develop when a person can no longer control their consumption of alcohol. When alcoholism occurs, the person may experience abuse of the substance, despite its negative impact on their overall health, and/or experience withdrawal symptoms when they are not able to consume their desired amount.
If you feel like you or a loved one is experiencing problems with alcoholism, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) suggests proper alcohol addiction treatment as it can be a very effective way to treat it. Research states that after 1 year of treatment, about 33.33% or 1 out of 3 people show no further symptoms.
Even the most severe cases of alcoholism can be managed with proper treatment and recovery efforts. Remember, with the right help and the right mindset, you can help yourself or a loved one overcome your alcohol problem.