If you drink a lot, smoke at all, or are not a very active person, you could be setting yourself up for vision problems down the road. 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. Drinking alcohol, smoking, and not getting enough exercise can actually increase your chances of developing various eye diseases and vision issues.
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. But, beyond the occasional drink, alcohol can cause you to develop dry eyes and possibly twitching of your eyelids. While these issues certainly aren’t permanent or threatening to your vision, they can be quite annoying and avoidable.
Moderate drinking can cause temporary eye problems such as blurriness or double vision. The alcohol weakens the muscles in your eyes, and also inhibits the signals your brain is sending to your eyes, which results in temporary vision problems. Alcohol also disrupts your peripheral vision so you develop what is known as tunnel vision, but these issues tend to go away when the alcohol leaves your system.
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 and it 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 will 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, though there is always the chance for a recurrence, especially if you continue drinking alcohol.
Alcohol has also been linked to the development of cataracts. When drinking alcohol, your chances for having cataracts at some point dramatically increases. This is because the effects of alcohol can cause significant damage to your eye nerves and muscles, as well as 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 with damaging your lungs and causing cancer, smoking can also greatly affect your eyesight and lead to several age-related eye diseases, and the more you smoke, the higher the risk increases.
Studies show that people who smoke actually double their chances for developing cataracts when compared to non-smokers, and that risk goes up with every cigarette you light. Cataracts have the potential to lead to permanent vision loss.
Smoking 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 increases the risk of 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.
If you’re not a very active person, whether it’s because you have a desk job that requires that you sit all day or because you just don’t get up and out of the house much, your sedentary life can actually have a great impact on your health, including your eye health.
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 people who do not get a lot of exercise are more likely to develop eye diseases such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration than people who exercise just a few times a week. The reason for this is because the intraocular pressure in your eyes can rise and 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 and improve the blood flow to the retina and optic nerve, decreasing your chances for developing eye diseases. However, you must maintain an active lifestyle to keep the intraocular pressure low.
Combining Alcohol, Smoking, and Inactivity
Your chances for developing eye diseases are high when you do one of these three things, but when you combine two or all of them, those chances for developing eye diseases increase. If you were to stop drinking, stop smoking, and begin a regular exercise routine – 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. You may not be able to completely eliminate the risk that you will at some point develop an eye disease, but living a healthy lifestyle will keep that risk as low as possible for as long as possible.