Alcohol and Diabetic Retinopathy (Drinking is Protective)

Are alcohol and diabetic retinopathy linked? There is strong evidence that they are. But first, what is diabetic retinopathy?


I.   The Disease

II.  The Study

III. Risk Factors

IV.  Resources

I. The Disease of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that causes impaired vision or even total blindness. It does so by damaging blood vessels in the retina. The retina is needed for vision. This disease usually affects both eyes. And it can affect anyone with diabetes. That is, either type 1 or type 2.

In early stages of the disease, there may be no symptoms. However, as it progresses, symptoms may include these.

    • Blurred vision.
    • Dark or empty areas in vision.
    • Floaters (That is, spots or strings that float in vision).
    • Fluctuating vision.
    • Impaired color vision. 

Here’s an example of normal vision compared with diabetic retinopathy. As vision deteriorates, the black patches continue to spread. That can lead to total blindness.

alcohol and diabetic retinopathy

II. The Study

alcohol and diabetic retinopathyResearchers studied alcohol and diabetic retinopathy over time. They did so among 656 people with diabetes. All had retinal photos taken at the beginning of the study. Then they had photos six years later at follow-up. The researchers also had data on drinking quantity and frequency and other data.

The researchers found that diabetics who drank alcohol had nearly two-thirds lower risk of developing the disease. That was in comparison with non-drinkers. However, there was no association between drinking and progression. That is, once the disease began.

The study was published in the journal Ophthamology.

So the bottom line is simple. Drinking alcohol greatly reduces the chance of getting this serious eye disease.

avoid frailty in ageingAnd moderately drinking any form of alcohol generally has equal health benefits. That is, wine, beer, and spirits are all helpfu. (Spirits are whiskey, gin, tequila, rum, vodka, etc.)

III. Risk Factors for Diabetic Retinopathy

Anyone who has diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. Risk of developing it can increase as a result of these.

    • alcohol and diabetic retinopathyAbstinence from alcohol.
    • Being African American, Hispanic or Native American.
    • Duration of diabetes (As duration increases, so does risk).
    • High blood pressure.
    • High cholesterol.
    • Poor control of blood sugar.
    • Pregnancy.
    • Tobacco use.

IV. Resources: Alcohol and Diabetic Retinopathy

Source of Study

Moss, S. et al. The association of alcohol consumption with the incidence and progression of diabetic retinopathy. Ophtha, 2020,101(12), 1962-1968.

Web Pages

Drinking Alcohol and Type 2 Diabetes.

Risk of Metabolic Syndrome Reduced by Drinking Alcohol. (The syndrome can cause diabetes.)

Type 2 Diabetes Death Risk Reduced by Drinking Alcohol.

Popular Readings

Benson, J. Diabetes. NY: Rosen, 2020 (eBook).

Levine, M. Diabetes. Mankato, MN: Amicus, 2015.

Metcalf, T. and Metcalf, G. Diabetes. Juv read. Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2008.

Stahura, B. Diabetes. Detroit: Lucent, 2009.

Yuwiler, J. Diabetes. San Diego: ReferencePoint, 2010.

Scientific Readings

 Avogaro, A., et al. Acute alcohol consumption improves insulin action. Diab Care, 2004, 27(6), 1369-1374.

Baliunas, D., et al. Alcohol as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Diab Care, 2009, 32(11), 2123-2132.

 Beulens, J., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes. Diab Care, 2005, 28, 2933-2938.

Carlsson, S., et al. Alcohol consumption and type 2 diabetes. Diabet, 2005, 48(6), 1051-1054.

Carlsson, S., et al. Alcohol consumption and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Diab Care, 2003, 26(10), 2785-2786.

Howard, A., et al. Effects of alcohol consumption on diabetes. Ann Int Med., 2004, 140(3), 211-219.

Kopper, L., et al.  Alcohol consumption lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. Diab Care, 2005, 28, 719-725.

Stampfer, M., et al. A study of drinking and risk of diabetes in women. Am J Epid., 1988, 128(3), 549-558.

Tanner, L. Light to moderate drinking cuts diabetes risk in women, too. AP, June 10, 2003. Nat Diabetes Info Clearinghouse.

Umed, A., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes. Arch Int. Med., 2000, 160, 1025-1050.

Wannamethee, S., et al. Alcohol consumption and the incidence of type II diabetes. J Epid Comm Hlth., 2002, 56(7), 542-548.

Wei, M. et al. Alcohol intake and type 2 diabetes in men. Diab Care, 2000, 23(1), 18-26.

Wheeler, M., et al. Is there a place for alcohol in your diabetes meal plan? Diab Fore., 2003 (Aug).

Alcohol and diabetic retinopathy are related. Specifically, drinking alcohol greatly reduces the risk of getting the disease. However, this site makes no suggestions. Therefore, consult a doctor for health advice.