Lucas Weatherby, Communications Officer in Engagement and Advocacy for Sight Loss Councils, reflects on Dry January, writing about the links between sight loss and eye health.Image is a picture of Lucas

Dry January can be an excellent time to reflect on how drinking can affect you and your health – including your eye health. Refraining from drinking can be a challenge but it can have great health benefits. Taking part in Dry January can help you reassess your relationship with alcohol, making drinking a pleasure rather than a habit.

Drinking and links with eye health
We all know that alcohol consumption impacts on your liver, and likewise, you may have experienced some drinking-induced blurred vision, but did you also know that alcohol’s impact on the liver can have longer term consequences for your vision? Moorfields Eye Hospital say that excessive drinking can interfere with important liver functions that help protect against eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. That’s without mentioning the better-known risks of cancers and heart disease associated with drinking.

Did you know that alcohol can cause blindness and permanently blurred or even loss of vision? This is called toxic amblyopia. Rehab4Alcoholism explain this and other ways alcohol can affect your eyes including:

  • Blurred and distorted vision
  • Risk of cataracts
  • Damage to optic nerves
  • Affects eyesight of unborn children during pregnancy.

According to DrinkAware, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer suggests it’s safest to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread out over the course of the week. Spreading out the units and drinking them in moderation is better for your body and your eye health. You can work out how many units of alcohol are in your drink on the NHS website here.

Why I do Dry January
On a personal note, as someone with diabetes and a fan of craft ales, I consider Dry January a great time to take a break from drinking after the holiday season. With diabetes, there are potential complications of diabetic retinopathy, and sufferers of diabetes are more likely to develop glaucoma or cataracts, plus drinking alcohol can impact on daily management of the disease. Diabetes UK were a great resource for me in understanding the impact of alcohol on my condition and my eye health this January.

While there are many risks associated with prolonged and heavy drinking, like most indulgences, moderation is key. Drinking alcohol in moderation, in consideration of the guidelines, is the best way reduce long-term risks. I also find I enjoy alcohol much more when drinking on occasion rather than overindulging on one evening. Having tried Dry January myself, it really made me appreciate and enjoy alcohol, rather than having it out of habit.