The effects of alcohol on your eyes
We all know the immediate effects that drinking alcohol can have on our bodies. Vision is also affected and it becomes blurry and distorted. While this can have the positive effect of making the people around you seem more attractive (also known as ‘beer googles’) the short and long-term, physiological effects of alcohol can impact on your eyes.
Alcohol slows the communication between the brain’s neurotransmitters, which slows the information travelling from your brain to your body. This leads to a delay in communication between the brain and the eyes leading to poor coordination in the eye muscles, which can cause distorted or double vision.
Other short-term effects include:
- Slower pupil reaction. Alcohol limits the ability of the iris to constrict or dilate correctly in reaction to the level of light surrounding them. This affects the eye’s ability to see contrast in different colours and shades, thus hampering your ability to play sports or drive safely.
- Increased eye dryness. Studies have found that alcohol consumption can exacerbate symptoms of dry eye.
- Eyelid twitching (myokymia).
- Bloodshot eyes. This is caused by swollen blood vessels.
Usually the short-term effects of alcohol consumption resolve once the alcohol levels in the blood return to normal. However heavy and consistent alcohol use has been linked to a number of eye conditions and organ issues which can also cause secondary effects in the eye.
Excessive, long-term alcohol consumption increases the risk of:
- Cataract formation.
- Age-related macular degeneration.
- Optic neuropathy (also known as toxic amblyopia) is a painless and permanant loss of vision due to damage to the optic nerve.
- Vision loss due to vitamin deficiency. Excessive alcohol affects the absorption of vitamins in the liver, which are needed to maintain healthy vision. Common deficiencies are vitamin B-1, which can cause eye muscle weakness of paralysis, and vitamin A, which can cause poor night vision, corneal thinning or punctures, dryness and retinal damage.
- Prenatal alcohol exposure – unfortunately, excessive exposure to alcohol while still in the womb can cause many eye problems associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. These include underdevelopment of the optic nerve and poor eye coordination.
Most of the short-term vision-altering effects of alcohol go away on their own but the long-term effects can be serious and require a visit to your GP or optometrist. If you, or a family member, are suffering from the effects of alcoholism you can find some helpful contacts here.