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The benefits of Dry January for your eye health

The festive season has passed, and lots of people are now putting their New Year's resolutions or health goals into action. Whether you plan to save money or cut back on your alcohol intake, Dry January is a positive way to start the year because participating in Dry January can reap more than just financial benefits. Did you know that cutting out alcohol in the New Year can significantly impact eye health?

It's no secret that drinking to excess puts the body under strain and can lead to long-term health implications. However, patients are unaware of the risks that excessive drinking has on their eyes.

Binge drinking can cause a number of problems with eye health, including symptoms associated with dry eye. These include swollen blood vessels in the eyes which can give a bloodshot look, 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.

Optical Express Clinical Director, Stephen Hannan, supports the option for cutting down on alcohol consumption in the New Year, 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."

He continues, "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. 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."

Within one month of cutting out alcohol, our red blood cells will begin to renew, resulting in better blood flow and oxygen supply to the organs, and of course, our eyes. Good circulation is essential to maintaining good eye health. It means that they receive frequent oxygen and nutrients to prevent disease and damage, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Here is a weekly breakdown of what happens to your body during Dry January:

Period - Within 24 hours

Effect - Drinking alcohol increases blood sugar levels which can lead to blurred vision, as it causes the eye lens swells 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.

Period - Within a week

Effect - 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 eye ball. Dry eye typically causes irritation and blurred vision, and can increase risk of infections.

Period - Within 2 weeks

Effect - Two weeks after cutting alcohol from your lifestyle, you 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.

Period - Within 3 – 4 weeks

Effect - 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. Your liver health is reflected through the condition of your eyes, with the old age of your eyes being the window to your soul actually being true.

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.

Period - Within a month

Effect - 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 a frequent oxygen and nutrients to prevent disease and damage, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.

If you are concerned about your vision or any symptoms you may be experiencing, make sure to book your free eye test at your nearest Optical Express clinic today where our team of clinical experts will be able to offer help and advice related to your eye health.

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