The effects of alcohol on your eyes

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 by Vision Direct

A young couple drinks together with friends in a video meeting

We all know that overdoing it on the alcohol front is not good for our health. Plus, nobody actually likes waking up with a hangover. But did you know that one-two many tipples on a continual basis can have a negative impact on your eyes, as well? Hey, we're not here to be the fun police. Although, as the experts of all things related to eye care and contact lenses, we want to shed some light on the possible harm that extensive partying can cause to your peepers, and how to alleviate the side effects.

Poor vision

After you've knocked back a few drinks on a Friday night, you're sure to soon experience blurred vision. This is because alcohol negatively affects your peripheral vision, which allows you to see objects all around you without turning your head or moving your eyes. As a result, you'll have a type of tunnel vision, as well as double vision and a slower pupil reaction. Understandably, driving under the influence is super-dangerous given you can't react quickly, estimate distances or identify colours and objects. So, if you do plan on enjoying a few bevvies, just make sure to arrange a safe way to get yourself home.

A woman in a white bathrobe drinks a glass of water in the kitchen

Dry eyes

Nothing beats that first sip of water in the morning after a big night out. And if you're wondering why partying can leave you feeling incredibly parched, it's because alcohol is a diuretic, which causes your body to remove fluids at a quicker rate. This dehydration also extends to your eyes, accelerating the symptoms of dry eye syndrome like itchiness and a burning sensation. To avoid any of this discomfort, try to keep up your water intake in between those 2-for-1 cocktail specials, and before you go to bed. Also, remember to always take out your lenses, as they can limit the amount of oxygen that reaches your cornea, and lead to long-term conditions like keratitis (inflammation of the cornea). Plus, applying eye drops will give your eyes an instant and much-need boost of moisture. Our in-house opticians recommend everclear Eye Drops, with a gentle-yet-effective formula, perfect for those with sensitive, tired and dry eyes.

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Try everclear Eye Drops

Featuring a natural formula of herbal ingredients, everclear Eye Drops provide instant and long-lasting relief for dry, itchy and irritated eyes. Each conveniently-sized 10ml bottle, perfect for popping into a pocket or purse, promises speedy refreshment whether you're wearing your contact lenses or not. Plus, these eye drops work wonders for rewetting contact lenses of all types, ensuring lubrication and upping the levels of comfort. An in-built dispenser makes it super-easy to apply drops into each eye wherever you are.

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Red eyes

Ah, the dreaded bloodshot eyes - a look that definitely screams 'hungover'. Wonder why? Excessive alcohol consumption reduces oxygen in your red blood cells, resulting in the tiny blood vessels on the surface of the eye (the sclera) to dilate. This then leads to more blood flowing through them, giving your eyes an inflamed, red appearance. Eye drops can be helpful here, as can some home remedies like placing a cold compress, or a spoon that's been left in the freezer on your closed eyes. A drop in temperature helps to restrict the blood vessels and bring that redness down.

Bags under your eyes

Next time you're tempted to have a nightcap, remember that although alcohol can make you really drowsy, it can also disrupt the quality of your REM sleep - the deep, dream sleep stage. Plus, it can suppress your breathing, increase restlessness, and like we've mentioned make you thirsty. So, with these things in mind, it's unlikely that you'll rise and shine feeling fresh or rested. And, your eyes will be a tell-tale sign of this, specifically in the lower region, where eye bags can form. The puffiness of under-eye bags can also be alleviated with cold compresses and some simple exercises for your eye muscles.

A man sits in front of a laptop and rubs his eyes

Eyelid twitching

Eyelid twitching is another indicator that you've gone a bit overboard on the binge drinking. This painless, but annoying spasm of eye movement is known as myokymia and is caused by a muscle in the eye. The twitching sensation should go away within a day, however, if it lasts for more than 2 weeks, you should speak to a doctor. If you find your eyelid twitching on a regular basis, it can be a result of stress, lack of sleep, drinking too much coffee or a vitamin deficiency. Along with moderating your alcohol intake, try to adopt good daily habits to put a stop to this. We're talking about setting aside time to relax, eating a nutritious diet, drinking 2 litres of water every day, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep.

Long-term effects of alcohol

So, we've touched on some noticeable short-term effects, but continuous consumption of alcohol can have a more serious and lengthier impact on your eyes, leading to vision problems, including:

  • A lazy eye: Also known as amblyopia, a lazy eye can be prompted by excessive drinking and increases your risk of loss of vision and permanent damage.
  • Cataracts: Studies have shown that there's a link between cataract development (involving cloudy patches covering the lens of your eye, blurring your vision) and high alcohol consumption.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Alcohol abuse is a risk factor for this eye disease developing, which harms the macula (the central part of the retina) and reduces your visual acuity.
  • Vitamin deficiency: Vitamins are essential for your eyes to remain in tip-top shape, and being a heavy drinker can often drain your body's reserve, possibly resulting in optic neuritis. This condition makes the optic nerve that sends messages from the eye to the brain inflamed, leading to loss of central vision and blurry vision.

At the end of the day, the key to drinking alcohol is to simply have it in moderation. This way, you can protect both your body and your eye health going forward.

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