Alcohol Awareness

April 17, 2013

April is Alcohol Awareness Month; it’s estimated that over half of Americans over the age of twelve are active drinkers of alcohol (2008 National Survey of Drug Use and Health by the US Dept of Health and Human Services). Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. While a healthy diet can and often does include some alcohol consumption (namely, one glass of red wine per day with dinner has been accepted by many dietitians as appropriate), understanding and adhering to alcohol use in moderation is integral to avoiding its abuse. Raising awareness of alcohol abuse and providing education on appropriate approaches to alcohol are important year round, but are a great topic on which to focus this week’s blog!

Alcohol, in appropriate moderation, has a relatively low risk for ocular and systemic complications in otherwise healthy adults; a glass of red wine with dinner has long been accepted as a heart-healthy alcohol use and has even been included in the Mediterranean diet. In excess binge drinking or habitual alcohol abuse, we begin to see many health complications. While we all should be aware of the systemic damage alcohol abuse can cause (including cancers, liver disease, obesity, diabetes, brain damage, heart disease, and death), many people are unaware of the risks to eye health that are posed by habitual overindulgence in alcohol.

* Short term eye effects: dilated pupils, temporary decreased peripheral vision, blurred vision, and increased risk for ocular trauma (secondary to decreased hand-eye coordination and an increased propensity for “risky” behavior).

* Long term eye effects: optic neuropathy, decreased peripheral vision, reduced sense of color palette, increased risk of trauma, and increased risk of diabetic retinopathy, a potentially vision-threatening condition which can result in permanent blindness.

Although we do not specialize in substance abuse, we urge you to seek out a professional if you feel you are unable to set appropriate boundaries for yourself in regards to any substance.