Alcohol has long been a part of social gatherings, and it’s something that many people enjoy. But one drawback to drinking is that alcohol can have many effects on your eyes. Some of these effects are mild, and some are more severe. More specifically, heavier alcohol consumption can severely affect your eyes and eyesight. All types of alcohol have similar effects on vision: redness and tearing due to dilated blood vessels, clouding of the corneas, and reduced night vision because of decreased tear film production and pupil size. Read on to learn the not-so-popular effects alcohol addiction has on your eyesight.
1. Alcohol Can Cause Dry Eyes
Alcohol is a diuretic that causes your body to lose fluid. This leads to dehydration, which can make your eyes feel dry and irritated. Alcohol also increases the mucus in your nose and throat, irritating your eyes and bringing on an itchy feeling around them.
In addition, your eyes may get puffy after heavy alcohol consumption. Because alcohol causes blood vessels to become leaky, eye puffiness and swelling can occur. However, this is often a momentary effect that goes away after alcohol leaves your system.
It’s important to remember that this condition isn’t necessarily permanent; once you stop drinking alcohol regularly, there’s a good chance that your symptoms will be reduced significantly over time.
2. Increased Risk of Red Eyes
Alcohol dilates blood vessels, making the whites of your eyes appear red. This is especially noticeable in people with fair skin or light eye colors like blue or green. Also known as alcoholic eyes, bloodshot eyes can directly result from heavy drinking habits. In addition, red eyes can become more apparent when drinkers combine alcohol with other drugs like marijuana, nicotine, and opioids.
While bloodshot eyes are not a long-term consequence, and your eyes will regain their normal color once the alcohol has left your system, it can still lead to uncomfortable eye dryness.
3. Alcohol Can Cause Blurred Vision
Alcohol can impair your vision, especially after consuming large quantities of alcohol. The time it takes for your eyesight to return to normal depends on how much alcohol you’ve consumed and how long ago it was consumed. However, some people experience permanent damage from their blurry vision.
In addition, when you drink too much alcohol, your brain’s overall function is also affected. This can cause communication failures between your eyes and brain, thus distorting your vision. When you’re under the influence of alcohol, your pupils take longer to dilate, causing a loss of contrast, which means you will have difficulty distinguishing between certain shades and colors. This can be extremely dangerous while driving or operating machinery.
4. Poor Tear Film Stability
Alcohol can make the tear film unstable and cause it to break down. The tear film protects your eyes, so it can lead to dry eye syndrome when it becomes less stable and breaks down. When this happens, your eyes won’t be able to produce tears or the right quantity of tears or lubricant.
Your eyes need tears to stay lubricated and prevent dryness. Without adequate tears, you’re exposed to a higher risk of eye infections and inflammation, including abrasion of the corneal surface and vision loss. Not to mention, eye dryness decreases your quality of life as it can be pretty uncomfortable.
5. Alcohol Can Cause Retinal Swelling and Detachment
A vitamin A deficiency caused by heavy alcohol consumption can cause a thinning of the cornea, corneal perforation, and dryness due to retinal damage. In some extreme cases, it might even cause blindness. Fortunately, most people won’t experience these side effects. But some can develop swelling or detachment of the retina (the thin layer at the back of your eye that senses light) after drinking alcohol. In severe cases, this can lead to blindness if left untreated.
6. Increased Risk of Cataracts
Some studies suggest that chronic heavy drinkers may risk developing cataracts—clouding over the lens that results from hardening. However, there’s not enough evidence to draw definitive conclusions about this connection between alcohol consumption frequency and amounts versus eye health outcomes like cataract development.
If you are concerned about how your drinking might affect your eyes, you need to talk to a doctor before it becomes too late. It is always a good idea to discuss any concerns you may have about alcohol and the eyes with an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.
Furthermore, if you or someone you know is dealing with alcohol addiction, you must talk to an addiction specialist about your treatment options. Sobriety is achievable with the right rehab program.