Alcohol and Eye Health: The Effect of Alcohol on Vision
Alcohol is a nervous system depressant that affects the functioning of organs, including the eyes. When consuming alcohol in moderation, the body can metabolize it and excrete it through the liver and kidneys. In contrast, when consumption is excessive, that often leads to a buildup of toxins causing alcohol eyesight damage and eye problems. Oftentimes even small amounts of liquor or spirits could cause puffy and bloodshot ‘alcohol eyes’.
If you want to learn more about what alcohol does to your eyes, read on. In this article, we are discussing the medical connection between alcohol and eye health, while answering the most pressing questions about the ways it affects vision and ocular health.
Table of Content
1.1. Short-term effects
1.2. Long-term effects
2.4. Eye pressure
How Alcohol Affects the Eyes?
Alcohol affects eyes negatively in many ways. From its short-term effects on the way your eyes look, the temporary irritation and discomfort during and after drinking; to the long-term effects which can abruptly deteriorate your eye health for life; we will go over everything you need to know.
Short-term effects of alcohol on the eyes
Overconsumption of alcohol causes short-term effects on the eyes such as:
Most of these unpleasant effects are temporary and go away once alcohol leaves the system.
Eye muscle weakness
Alcohol affects the coordination of eye muscles, often leading to a condition called "alcohol-induced nystagmus." The weakened muscles cause involuntary eye movements, which can result in difficulty focusing and may lead to double or blurry vision, as well as difficulty with depth perception.
Blurry or distorted vision
Apart from weakening the eye muscles, alcohol also affects the transmission of signals between the eyes and the brain. Leading to temporary visual disturbances. Vision gets blurry, and objects might appear distorted or double.
Alcohol is a diuretic that contributes to dehydration, light sensitivity, increased urine production, and reduced tear production. The low moisture levels in the eyes lead to dryness, discomfort, irritation, burning, grittiness, and eye redness. Those are the first signs of dry eye. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and reduce liquor effects.
RELATED: Sleep Apnea and The Risk of Dry Eye
Redness and Irritation
There is an undeniable link between alcohol and eyes redness. Here is why alcohol makes eyes red. Alcoholic beverage intake can dilate the blood vessels in the eyes. Thus resulting in mild or severe redness and irritation. That can make the eyes appear bloodshot and contribute to feelings of discomfort.
Excessive alcohol consumption often leads to overall fatigue and tiredness, including eye fatigue. Symptoms may include difficulty focusing on objects, eye strain, and a strong sense of heaviness in the eyes.
Some individuals may suffer altered perceptions of color and light after drinking alcohol. A drunk person might experience difficulties distinguishing between colors or experience halos around lights as a result of liquor consumption.
Puffiness, dark circles and dry skin around the eyes
Alcohol causes eye puffiness and dark circles as well. That is because it can disrupt the body's normal fluid balance and interfere with quality sleep. Which easily exacerbates the appearance of puffiness and undereye dark circles. Having dry skin around the eyes after drinking is also common as a result of dehydration.
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Long-term effects of alcohol on the eyes
Excessive alcohol consumption can have more serious long-term effects on the eyes, including:
Alcoholic optic neuropathy
Toxic optic neuropathy is a condition where alcohol damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve is especially susceptible to damage from Methanol (a type of alcohol, which is used for paints, glue and disinfection). The concentration of Methanol may be more in homemade brewed alcoholic beverages. Since the optic nerve transmits visual information to the brain, intoxication leads to deteriorating vision. The optic atrophy may include irreversible blind spots (visual field loss) and poor color perception.
Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing cataracts. That's a common eye condition where the eye's lens becomes cloudy and obscures vision. Cataracts are relatively more common in heavy drinkers than in moderate or non-drinkers.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), is a progressive eye condition. Understanding the potential risks of alcohol consumption concerning AMD is fundamental for promoting eye health and making better lifestyle choices. Studies suggest alcohol in excess can trigger inflammation, deplete essential nutrients, and lead to adverse health effects. Genetic predisposition also plays a role in AMD development.
Excessive alcohol intake is likely to have far-reaching effects on the body. One concerning aspect is its potential to impair nutrient absorption, contributing to nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies can negatively impact various bodily functions, including eye health. Among the crucial nutrients and antioxidants that might be affected, vitamin A stands out as a key player in maintaining healthy vision.
RELATED: The Most Common Eye Conditions
More about Alcohol and Eye Health Conditions
There is no direct correlation between alcohol and eye floaters. Instead, eye floaters are usually a common and harmless condition resulting from changes in the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills the back of the eye.
As a person ages, the vitreous gel may start to liquefy and shrink, leading to the formation of tiny clumps or strands within the gel. These clumps cast shadows on the retina, which appear as floaters in the person's field of vision. They may show up as black or gray spots, strings, or cobweb-like shapes which seem to drift around during eye movements.
Alcohol itself does not cause eye floaters. However, dehydration from excessive consumption might exacerbate the perception of floater and make the vitreous more noticeable.
There must be a clear distinction between harmless floaters and severe eye problems. In most cases, eye floaters are not a cause for concern. But sudden and significant changes in the number or type of floaters, along with flashes of light or vision loss, can be signs of a potentially serious condition such as retinal detachment.
Twitching is usually a mild condition, involving involuntary spasms or contractions of the muscles around the eye. It varies in frequency and duration, ranging from a few seconds to several minutes.
As for the relation between intake of alcohol and eye twitching, there are a few ways alcohol consumption might indirectly impact the intensity of the spasms. Excessive drinking leads to sleep disturbances, dehydration, stress, anxiety, and eye strain. All these are factors that easily can trigger or make eyelid twitching worse.
In the case of alcohol and eye infections, here we also have an instance in which liquor intake indirectly has a negative effect on eye health. Alcohol can impair the immune system and reduce the body's ability to fight off bacteria and diseases, including those affecting the eyes.
Certain activities commonly associated with alcohol consumption, also increase the risk of introducing harmful microbes or viruses to the eyes, potentially leading to eye infections. For example, sharing drinks or touching the eyes with unwashed hands.
Now let’s talk about alcohol and eye pressure. Drinking may temporarily increase intraocular pressure (IOP), the fluid pressure within the eye. The rise in IOP is typically modest and temporary and occurs because alcohol affects blood flow and fluid dynamics in the body.
However, for people with pre-existing eye conditions like glaucoma, the temporary rise in IOP may be more significant and potentially exacerbate their condition. If you have glaucoma or any other eye diseases that affect eye pressure, please consult with an eye care professional about alcohol’s potential impact on your eye health.
Prevention & Treatment of Alcohol Eyesight Damage
The best way to prevent eye problems due to excessive alcohol consumption is to drink alcohol in moderation or to avoid it altogether. Staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and protecting the eyes from UV radiation are all ways to maintain good eye health.
If you experience any vision changes or eye problems after drinking alcohol, get immediate medical attention from an eye doctor. Early detection and treatment are crucial in preventing vision loss and complications.
Learn more about eye health in the Ophthalmology24 blog.
Drinking and Your Eyes, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Checked by Atanas Bogoev, MD.