Alcohol affects every part of the body, including the eyes. Alcoholic eyes are the result of alcohol’s effects on parts of the eye, from optical nerves to blood vessels and neurological signals. Learn more about how exposure to alcohol can produce both short- and long-term consequences to vision and how to avoid complications from alcoholic eyes.
Short-Term Effects of Alcoholic Eyes
If there’s ever any question as to whether a person has been drinking a lot of alcohol, it can usually be answered by looking at their eyes. Drunk eyes are frequently a giveaway when a person has overconsumed, but what is actually happening to your eyes on alcohol?
Blurred or Double Vision
Alcohol and eyesight are closely related. One of the most commonly noticed side effects from drinking too much alcohol is blurry or double vision. This occurs due to the slowed messaging between the brain and the eyes while under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, blurred vision is a response to alcohol due to impaired eye-muscle coordination.
Involuntary Eye Movement
Involuntary eye movement (nystagmus) causes abrupt jerking or bouncing movements of the eyeballs. While this sometimes occurs naturally, drinking alcohol can exacerbate these movements. Nystagmus is so consistently related to alcohol use that testing involuntary eye movement is one method that police officers use to determine whether a driver has been drinking. Like with blurred vision, this occurs because of poor communication between the brain and the eyes.
Slower Pupil Reaction Time
When drunk, pupils may not act normally. Specifically, pupils take longer to dilate when a person has been drinking. This can result in tunnel vision and an inability to adjust quickly enough to differences in light (i.e., headlights when driving).
Difficulty Interpreting Contrasting Shades
Alcohol also reduces the ability to determine differences between contrasting shades of similar colors or between light and dark. This becomes an issue when some who has been drinking, even moderately, decides to drive.
Any amount of alcohol can contribute to drier eyes. Alcohol and dry eyes are common because alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes you have to urinate more often. In this way, drinking dehydrates the entire body, including the eyes.
There are many other issues related to the eyes and drinking, such as alcohol consumption and eye floaters, eye pain after drinking, and ocular migraines. Fortunately, most short-term symptoms of alcoholic eyes should resolve as the body recovers from alcohol exposure, provided that the person doesn’t continue drinking excessively.
Long-Term Effects of Alcoholic Eyes
While short-term effects of alcohol on the eyes generally stop when the drinking stops, chronic exposure to alcohol can cause lasting damage to the eyes. For example, in addition to the ailments below, chronic alcohol abuse can not only lead to vitamin deficiencies but also disrupt neurological connections to the eye.
Cataracts can seriously impair vision. Research has demonstrated that once a person surpasses moderate drinking, they are at a higher risk of developing cataracts. Nutritional deficiencies caused by alcohol intake are thought to be one of the reasons for the increased risk of cataracts.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD is a severe, degenerative condition that causes permanent vision loss over time. While more research is needed, chronic alcohol consumption has been associated with an increased risk of this disease.
Toxic amblyopia is a condition where a gradual loss of vision occurs due to alcohol exposure. While once believed this was due to the accumulation of toxins, it is now thought to be caused by malnourishment from chronic alcohol abuse. If treated early with vitamin replacement, vision changes may reverse. But without this intervention, the vision loss may be permanent.
Dry Eye Syndrome
More than just occasional eye discomfort, dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition that affects the surface of the eyes. Along with dryness, this condition results in visual disturbances and inflammation. Alcohol is thought to be a contributing risk factor to developing this disease.
How to Avoid Alcoholic Eyes
As with any conditions that are substance abuse-related, conditions related to alcohol are avoidable by simply not drinking. However, occasional, light to moderate drinking should not cause lasting damage to the eyes. If your drinking exceeds this and you find you are having a hard time quitting drinking despite the negative effects it’s having in your life, alcohol addiction treatment can help.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Las Vegas, Nevada
There are many effective treatment methods for alcohol addiction leaving you with options in how to approach alcohol treatment. Usually, alcohol addiction therapy begins after alcohol detox. This ensures that no alcohol remains in your system, and focus on behavioral components of alcohol use can begin.
A commitment to inpatient residential therapy is often recommended after alcohol detox. At the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC), this could include:
- Individual and group therapy
- Complementary therapies (i.e., yoga and recreational therapy)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Motivational interviewing (MI)
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Clinical hypnotherapy
- 12-step or faith-based recovery groups
Deciding to commit to alcohol addiction treatment is a huge step towards recovering from addiction. And at VJRC, you will never have to go at it alone. To get started on your recovery, contact one of our admissions specialists at 888-828-2623, or use our confidential online form to ask us anything that comes to mind.
Located in dynamic Las Vegas, Nevada, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC) a 44-bed facility is run by a skilled multi-disciplinary team of medical and behavioral health professionals that includes nurses, counselors, and doctors, along with complementary and alternative medicine specialists to provide our clients with a transformational experience that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. Our approach is holistic and grounded in research and evidenced-based best practices that help people develop the awareness and skills required to achieve and sustain recovery.