In today's society, the harmful effects of alcohol are all pervasive. Despite of the fact, that its role in the body is not less than a poison, people still gulp it down with full zeal. The consumption of alcohol undoubtedly will have long term detrimental effects on all the major organs of the body especially liver. People often wonder if alcohol can cause blindness. Let us understand the effects of alcohol and how alcoholism can lead to blindness. It is also important to know the treatment options for the same.

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Blindness?

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Blindness?

Excessive drinking of alcohol in both short term and long term, can have disastrous effects on the eyes. The answer to the question, can drinking alcohol cause blindness, may be tricky, but it simply says yes. Alcohol can particularly damage the optic nerve which can go to the extent of causing blindness. It also depends on the quantity you are taking in and the type of alcohol. Cheap drinks may hurt more in the long run as compared to others.

Actually consumption of alcohol for a very long time can severely damage the brain cells. This produces untoward effect on the eyesight of a person giving blurry vision or total blindness permanently. If the eyesight has been damaged by intake of alcohol permanently, then a person won't be able to spot contrast in colors. Alcohol blindness also arises from other nutritional deficiencies which are caused due to regular consumption of alcohol. More specifically, vitamin B12 and B2 can add to eye sight damage. The damage of eyes due to vitamin deficiency, resulting from alcohol overuse can damage the optic nerve and which is irreversible. This can also cause progressive blindness.

Methyl Alcohol: The Most Dangerous in Causing Blindness and Deaths

The most dangerous type of alcohol is methane alcohol which has the compound methanol in it. It can severely damage the eyesight and cause blindness and can even lead to death, if overused. According to study, approximately 4 milliliters of methanol in alcohol is said to cause blindness and the concentration amount between 30-60 milliliters of methanol can cause death. In the year 1922, a report generated by the National Committee for the Prevention of Blindness in the documentary stated that in the first half of the year, methyl alcohol lead up to 130 deaths of drinkers and 22 cases of blindness.

So, the curtains are unwrapped now, which establishes fact that alcohol can cause permanent blindness. Death comes next. Even small amounts consumed over time can permanently damage the central nervous system. This in turn leads to irreversible permanent blindness. This answers the question, can drinking alcohol cause blindness?

Alcohol can severely affect eye health and drinking alcohol can cause blindness too. Here are some of the short term and long term effects of alcohol on the eyes.

Short Term Effects of Alcohol on Eye Health

  • Slow Pupil Reaction-Alcohol, when fuses with blood affects the functioning of eye by altering the function of iris, constricting and dilating it very slowly. This is a serious issue for drivers since their adaptability of oncoming headlights drastically reduces.
  • Reduced Contrast Sensitivity-The ability of a normal individual to make distinctions between different colors in terms of depth and darkness severely goes down or is visually impaired due to regular alcohol consumption. A study conducted by the Western University of Ontario, shows that alcohol reduces ability of the eye to adjust the vision between brightness and contrast by at least 30 per cent.
  • Twitching of Eye-Eye twitching or (myokymia) is the twitching of eyelid which is triggered by intake of excessive alcohol.
  • Increased Dryness-Consumption of alcohol can cause dryness of eyes and also worsen the already existing condition.

All these effects eventually affect the eyes and contribute to eye damage.

Long Term Effects of Alcohol on Eye Health

  • Cataract Formation-Multiple studies conducted by various health institutes and colleges have shown that alcohol consumption can lead to increased cataract formation in the eyes.
  • Risk of AMD-the American Optometric Association finds that excessive consumption of alcohol, can increase chances of AMD or (age macular degeneration) especially those above 30 years.
  • Decrease in Vision Due to Vitamin Deficiency-Heavy drinking leads to absorption of essential vitamins in the liver, which perhaps is needed for better eyesight and functioning. For instance, deficiency of vitamin B-1 due to intense alcohol consumption can lead to paralysis of muscles of eyes. Deficiency of vitamin A due to alcoholism can lead to night blindness, cornea thinning, perforation of cornea, intense dryness and even compete blindness due to damage of the retina. Such problems can be important factors in causing blindness, particularly from drinking alcohol.
  • Tobacco Alcohol Amblyopia-It is also known by the term of optic neuropathy, which leads to slow and painless loss of vision causing permanent blindness in people. Those who drink alcohol beyond the limit for a long time, can be victim of this permanent ailment.
  • Prenatal Alcohol Exposure-Women who are heavy drinkers also put the health and life of their children along with their own lives. Too much of alcohol intake, can affect the eyesight of baby in the womb only. As per a review done by the Emory University Medicine Institute, many eye problems of children are specifically due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This includes the underdevelopment of optic nerve, difficult in coordination of eye, and the drooping of eyelids of children at a very young age which is incurable.

So, now surely, there won't be any doubts whether alcohol can cause blindness or not and you would not want to take any risk.

Treatment Options for Blindness Caused Due to Alcohol

Since permanent blindness caused due to high intake of alcohol especially methyl alcohol, can cause blindness or permanent loss of vision, this condition is beyond the realms of treatment. So the best thing is to prevent such occurrences. The best treatment of this ailment is to stop alcoholism in the first place.

Warning signs like vitamin deficiency, muscle twitching, early changes in vision must be immediately noted to begin appropriate treatment. The treatment options for overconsumption of alcohol caused eye damage include various things. The first step is to stop drinking alcohol.

  • If it is severely causing nutritional deficiency, then one should permanently stop it.
  • For those, who are drinking, either they must stop drinking completely or if they drink occasionally, then these people should specifically include vitamin B and vitamin B12 in their diets.
  • Folic acid on the other hand is another essential nutrition essential for preserving the eyesight.

In case, methyl alcohol is the prime cause of blurry vision, treatment options include immediate hospitalization. Treatment in hospital is necessary to prevent permanent blindness. Patients may also be given hemodialysis and other medications. Constant monitoring of blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate is needed. Intravenous drops might also be needed to control dehydration in the body. Also, visual aids such as special magnifying glasses and low vision aids are helpful for those who have lost their visions due to alcoholism

Though once in a while, taking alcohol on special occasions may be fine for some people, regular intake of alcohol can severely affect the eyes. It can cause various eye related symptoms and even cause blindness in some cases.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: July 5, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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