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Dry January - a sight for sober eyes

What happens to your eyes when you stop drinking alcohol?

Brits taking part in Dry January this year will reap more than just the financial benefits, according to health experts at Optical Express, who have revealed how staying off the booze in the New Year can greatly impact eye health.

Around 4.2 million people have said they will take part in Dry January this year, according to a recent YouGov poll, to help combat the effects of an over-indulgent festive period. Although it’s no secret that drinking to excess puts the body under strain and can lead to serious health implications, many are unaware their eyes could be at risk.

Binge drinking can cause a number of problems with eye health, including symptoms associated with dry eyes. These include swollen blood vessels in the eyes which can give a bloodshot look, discomfort, itchiness, irritation and fluctuation in vision. Associated swelling or inflammation can also cause a twitching of the eyelid and an increased sensitivity to light. Although these are only minor issues, long term alcohol abuse can actually permanently damage the optic nerves, which are responsible for sending visual information from the eyes to the brain.

Stephen Hannan, Clinical Services Director at Optical Express, supports cutting down alcohol consumption in the New Year to encourage better eye health, stating: “As well as the more commonly known pros of Dry January for example weight loss, better sleep and saving money, there are a whole host of benefits to your eyes and overall eye health.

“Cutting out alcohol as part of Dry January will allow your body to reverse and put the brakes on many of the short and long-term effects of drinking. For example, after just 24 hours of no alcohol, your blood sugar levels will normalise and blurred vision caused by alcohol intake will disappear.

“The longer you abstain you may also notice your eyes become brighter and whiter, as your body counteracts damage/yellowing of the sclera – the white part of your eye. Plus, your circulation will be improved meaning your eyes receive oxygen and nutrients to prevent disease and damage, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.”

“We recommend any person concerned about their vision or any eye symptom undergo an eye examination at their earliest opportunity.”

DRY JANUARY – TIMELINE

The following explains how your body reacts and recovers from an alcohol-filled festive season.

Period

Effects

Within 24 hours

Drinking alcohol increases blood sugar levels which can lead to blurred vision, as it causes the eye’s natural lens to swell reducing your ability to see. After 24 hours of no alcohol, your blood sugar levels will normalise and any vision impairment will return to normal, banishing beer goggles.

Within a week

After a heavy drinking session or successive days drinking, your body will be dehydrated as alcohol is a diuretic, which means that you lose fluid through sweating and of course those frequent toilet visits. Following a week abstaining from alcohol your body will reverse the effects of dehydration and normal hydration levels will be maintained, as long as you drink water frequently throughout the day.

 

Undoing the effects of dehydration will also correct the problem of dry eye, which occurs when there aren’t enough tears to hydrate the eyeball. Dry eye typically causes irritation/discomfort, eye redness, and blurred vision, and can increase the risk of infections.

Within 2 weeks

Two weeks after cutting alcohol from your lifestyle, your blood pressure will also start to lower and normalise. You may also notice a slight weight loss as you cut out the empty calories, this will also contribute to lowering your blood pressure.

 

Reducing high blood pressure can ease hypertension, and hypertensive retinopathy, which causes damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the area at the back of the eye that allows you to focus images.

Within 3 – 4 weeks

Getting closer to the end of Dry January you will start to benefit from a healthier liver, as it sheds excess fat and full function is restored following your abstinence.

 

The white part of your eye, the sclera can yellow if there is liver damage from years of drinking, it can also be a sign of liver disease. The yellowing is caused by a build-up of old red blood cells which aren’t removed by the liver.

Within a month

Following your month off alcohol your body’s red blood cells will have begun to renew resulting in better blood flow and oxygen supply to your organs, and of course eyes.

 

Good circulation is important to maintaining good eye health as it means that they are receiving frequent oxygen and nutrients to prevent disease and damage, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.

 

Optical Express is Europe’s only full-service eye care provider, offering eye examinations and every optical solution from glasses and contact lenses to laser eye and lens surgery.

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