We’ve all heard the hearsay legend of someone who brewed moonshine in their bathtub and went blind when they drank it. Going blind from dodgy booze is a bit of a trope by now. The story went around a lot during the Prohibition era, when lots of people were making alcohol without really knowing what they were doing – and often ending up with something far stronger and less chemically advisable than they were expecting. But can it really happen? Can you really go blind from drinking? And how does alcohol affect your vision generally – if at all?
Yes, You Can Go Blind From Drinking – If You’re Drinking Methanol
You can indeed go blind from drinking poorly made booze. It still happens surprisingly often, even today! However, the key phrase here is ‘poorly made’. The most common cause of drinking-related blindness these days is a chemical called methanol. Methanol (also known as methyl-alcohol or wood-alcohol) is a form of alcohol, but differs in important ways from the pure ethanol which constitutes ‘normal’ alcohol. Methanol can damage the optic nerve, causing blindness – if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, it can kill you. During the Prohibition era, bootleggers would sometimes add methanol to their ‘shine in order to make it more potent. Considering that such beverages were also often produced in leaky lead vessels – and lead poisoning can also lead to vision problems – the whole thing was a recipe for booze-related blindness. It’s still a problem where bootleg booze is produced today. In 2012, the Czech government had a serious crackdown on strong liquor after methanol-tainted moonshine killed over 20, and left several people blind.
What About ‘Normal’ Alcohol?
If you’re drinking something which follows approved manufacturing guidelines, you’re unlikely to be consuming either methanol or lead. However, that’s not to say that drinking isn’t dangerous for you eyesight. Those who drink heavily for years will progressively damage their brains. Anyone who has ever been heavily intoxicated will know that drunkenness can make your vision blur, and make it hard to focus on things. This has less to do with your eyes themselves than it does with the effects of alcohol upon your brain. When you drink heavily, the alcohol impairs communication between neurotransmitters in the brain. If you drink heavily a lot, over a long period of time, this impairment can become permanent. Furthermore, drinking can reduce your pupils’ reaction times – making it generally harder to focus on things. Alcohol is also associated with liver damage. Your liver plays more of a role than you might think in preserving the health of your eyes. Without a fully functioning liver, you can experience a build-up of toxins in your eyes, which will be damaging if left untreated. If you drink in moderation, it shouldn’t get to this stage (or anywhere near it!). Your eyes, liver, and neurological vision centers are well capable of dealing with and healing from moderate alcohol intake! However, if you’re perpetually flooding your brain and your liver with alcohol, you could do your vision permanent damage. For this reason – among many others – it may be time to rethink your drinking. Seek help to do this, if necessary.
Not All Bad News
It’s not all doom and gloom, though! For moderate drinkers, there is some good news. Some people believe that moderate consumption of red wine can actually preserve the health of your eyes. This is due to an antioxidant found in red wine called resveratrol. It comes from the skins of red wine grapes, and has been credited with a number of health benefits. So far as eye health is concerned, resveratrol is thought to be able to maintain the health of your eye muscles for longer. This puts you at far less risk of developing degenerative eye diseases, and keeps your vision sharper for longer. Furthermore, resveratrol may be able to stop the age-related accumulation of blood vessels in the eye. This can help to prevent macular degeneration. However, before you reach for the bottle, it’s worth stating that the overall negative effects of too much alcohol consumption can override these benefits. So keep it moderate!
Article from Author Gemma Saxton