How Alcohol Affects The Eyes

March 06, 2018

Two people holding glasses of alcohol whiskey

two people holding glasses of alcohol

Excessive and consistent alcohol abuse has a range of potential health problems like high blood pressure, cancer, and liver cirrhosis - along with damage to your eyesight.

Some ocular problems can be merely irritating, while others can permanently reduce the quality of your life.

Alcohol can affect your eyes in the following ways:

First, intoxication slows the communication between neurotransmitters - when this happens the brain and eyes can’t sync up properly.

  • In the short term, this creates what is popularly called a symptom called “beer goggles”, which leads to double vision and reduce ability to discern contrasting colors.
  • Long term use of alcohol can cause further deterioration to these neurotransmitters, permanently weakening the muscles around the eyes.

The debilitation of the muscles can cause involuntary actions like twitching and rapid eye movement, along with a permanent loss of vision or blindness.

This vision loss is further multiplied because alcohol consumption impacts the liver directly - causing the body use up its store of vitamin A and B-1, two vitamins integral to eye health.

Without these vitamins, a thinning of the cornea can occur resulting in secondary ocular problems like cataract formation, migraines, and decreased reaction of the pupils.

Alcohol also swells the blood vessels, consistent heavy drinkers can have permanently bloodshot eyes.

There are some women who drink while pregnant. Exposure to alcohol while still in the womb can undermine the development of a fetus leading to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

Along with a host of mental, emotional, and physical problems, individuals with FAS have underdeveloped optic nerves which leads to drooping eyes and impaired coordination. 

So, now you wonder how to avoid damaging your eyesight while drinking?

The best way to avoid the damaging effects of alcohol is to simply avoid alcohol altogether.

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as 2 drinks a day for men and a 1 drink for women - with the expected drink of alcohol to be a typical 12 oz beer or 5 oz cup of wine.

While it is heavily recommended not to go over this amount, if you are drinking more than this, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Between drinks make sure to drink water - alcohol is a diuretic and cause excessive urination and sweating, this can cause eyes to become dried out and bloodshot.
  • Afterward you can be sure to take some vitamins to help restore everything that has been sapped from you - a multi vitamin works well enough, but what your body needs specifically is vitamin A and B-1.

If you are suffering from eyesight problems and are a heavy drinker, you should stop drinking and see an eyesight specialist.


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