Let’s face it, we’ve all faced the temptation to throw another one back or join our coworkers for a smoke break. On top of that, it’s hard for many of us to find the motivation to hit the gym before or after a long day of work. However, if your lifestyle includes drinking a lot, smoking, or avoiding exercising, you could be setting yourself up for vision problems down the road.
We know the benefits of maintaining good habits and skipping the bad ones for our overall health. However, we forget how important such choices can be for our eyes as well. So many people just don’t know the consequences of the lifestyle habits they have. But a lot of the things you do in your everyday life can have a significant impact on your eye health. It’s important to understand how such habits affect your vision health in the future and what you can do now to counteract these effects.
Having a glass of wine or a beer every now and then is not going to greatly impact your eye health. In fact, some researchers say that the occasional drink can actually improve your vision. And you thought we only had bad news to share! However, when you drink more than occasionally, alcohol can cause you to develop dry eyes and possibly eyelid twitching. While these issues certainly aren’t permanent or threatening to your vision, they can be quite annoying.
Moderate drinking can cause temporary eye problems such as blurriness or double vision. The alcohol weakens the muscles in your eyes and also inhibits signals sent from your brain. This results in temporary vision problems. Alcohol also disrupts your peripheral vision. This is why some people develop “tunnel vision” when they are out on the town. These issues tend to go away when alcohol leaves your system.
More Serious Effects
However, if you drink excessively, especially over a long period of time, you can begin to experience major eye problems that aren’t so temporary. Optic neuropathy, which occurs when your optic nerves have been damaged, is just one of those major problems. More importantly, this disorder can cause permanent vision loss.
When you develop optic neuropathy, you can experience a range of vision problems. Your vision may become distorted, your ability to see colors clearly may diminish, and you may experience pain when you move your eyes. Eventually, you will lose your sight completely. With proper treatment, it may be possible to recover some of your vision. However, recurrence is possible, especially if you continue drinking alcohol.
Alcohol has also been linked to the development of cataracts. When drinking alcohol, your chances of having cataracts at some point dramatically increase. This is because alcohol’s effects can cause significant damage to your eye nerves and muscles. It can have similar effects on your brain and other organs. If you stop drinking, the risk for cataracts development will decrease.
Smoking is bad for your health on so many levels, but it doesn’t just stop at causing cancer. It can greatly affect your eyesight and lead to several age-related eye diseases. The risk for developing issues like dry eye and cataracts goes up with every cigarette you light. Cataracts have the potential to lead to permanent vision loss.
Cigarette use also increases the chance that you will develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects your retina and can lead to blindness. The older you get and the more you smoke, the more likely you are to develop AMD.
Smokers are also more likely than non-smokers to develop uveitis, which is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, or the uvea, and can cause damage to the retina and the iris. Uveitis can lead to eye health issues like cataracts, retinal detachment, and glaucoma. All of these conditions can lead to permanent blindness.
By now, you’ve surely heard how much our sedentary lifestyles affect our health. Humans were not programmed to sit at desks working at computers all day, but unfortunately, this is the reality for most of us. Not only does inactivity contribute to negative overall health problems, but it is also bad for your vision.
If you’re on the computer for work all day, you can develop minor eye issues like blurred vision, eye strain, and dry eyes. You can also experience headaches or migraines, which can each lead to vision problems as well.
Studies show that inactive people are more likely to develop eye diseases such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. People who exercise just a few times a week can reduce their risk of developing these disorders. The reason for this is that the intraocular pressure in your eyes can rise when you are sitting too long. In turn, the blood flow to your retina and optic nerve can become constricted, resulting in vision problems.
Just taking a walk two or three times a week can help to lower intraocular pressure. This improves blood flow to the retina and optic nerve, decreasing your chances of developing eye diseases. However, you must maintain an active lifestyle to keep your intraocular pressure low.
Combining Alcohol, Smoking, and Inactivity
Your chances of developing eye diseases are high when you make one of these three unhealthy choices. When you combine two or all of them, those chances of developing eye diseases increase substantially.
If you stop drinking and smoking and begin a regular exercise routine, though, you can start reversing some of their negative effects. Even if it’s just walking two or three times a week, you will greatly diminish those chances of developing a serious eye disease that could cause you to lose your vision.
Obviously, coupling a good, active lifestyle with a proper healthy diet will also ensure that your eyes stay healthy for as long as possible. Taking supplements to support your vision can help as well. You may not be able to completely eliminate the risk that you will at some point develop an eye disease. However, living a healthy lifestyle will keep that risk as low as possible for as long as possible.