Munching on mince pies and glugging copious amounts of Prosecco over the festive period can play havoc with your waistline. But did you know that over indulging can also have an adverse impact on your eyesight?
Poor nutrition, a cheeky cigarette at the office Christmas party and excessive alcohol can contribute to a host of serious eye conditions including macular degeneration, cataracts and even total vision loss.
David Teenan, UK Medical Director at Optical Express, said: “Alcohol is toxic and as with any toxic substance, it will affect the body by killing cells in tissue. The tissue on the optic nerve is particularly delicate and can be damaged easily.
“Prolonged heavy drinking can do serious damage to your health including the formation of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and even complete blindness.
“Binge drinking can also cause significant short-term problems for our vision. Alcohol reduces brain activity causing vision to fluctuate, impairing how we judge distances. It can also alter the physical appearance of our eyes. After heavy drinking eyes can turn red as blood vessels on the surface of our eyes dilate, causing discomfort and dry eyes.”
The good news is that many of the sight-threatening conditions linked with poor diet and lifestyle can now be treated successfully if detected early. It is recommended that adults in the UK and Ireland have their eyes tested every two years.
To minimise the impact of Christmas excess on your vision, Mr Teenan reveals his five top eye health tips:
Drinking lots of water – as well as giving your body a break from the booze - will help your eyes maintain a healthy balance of fluid, preventing them from becoming dehydrated and irritated. Well hydrated eyes also means sparkly eyes.
Stub it out
Giving up smoking will have a dramatic impact on your eye health. Most people know that smoking is bad for you, but what they probably don’t realise is how harmful it is to eye health. Smokers double their risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. According to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), smoking is the number one threat to eye health.
Eat your greens
Leafy greens such as spinach and vegetables including festive favourites, Brussels sprouts, are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin; antioxidants that lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Dark berries are rich in anthocyanins, which reduce the risk of disorders including glaucoma while Vitamin E – found in some nuts and seeds – may help to slow the damage causes by UV exposure.
Oily fish are rich in fatty acids which appear to protect the eyes from AMD and betacarotene, found in carrots and sweet potatoes.
Act your age
Binge drinking is harmful at any age but it has a particularly adverse effect on the sight of older people. As we age our metabolism slows down meaning that we clear toxins at a slower rate. In most cases, our vision gradually deteriorates with age as the optic nerve weakens. These two factors mean that older people are at a higher risk of damaging their eyesight with alcohol than younger generations.
Have regular eye tests
Much like a trip to the dentist, undergoing regular eye tests should form part of everyone’s overall health care. Conditions like cataracts and AMD can be treated with modern technology, but catching them early is key. It is recommended that adults in the UK have their eyes tested every two years.