We Have Beds Available! Call for Same Day Admission.855-722-6926

How Does Alcohol Affect the Eyes?

How Alcohol Affects The Eyes

Whether you consider yourself a social drinker or have received treatment for alcoholism in the past, drinking any amount of alcohol consistently for a long time can cause various physical and psychological effects.

As a Heartland Treatment Center, we know that among the many side effects of alcohol are vision problems. How alcohol affects the eyes depends on how often the person drinks and whether they have additional underlying issues with their vision. While having a glass of wine or drinking a beer every once in a while won’t have any lasting side effects, occasional drinking can slowly become a terrible habit. It’s when a person begins drinking excessively that they’re most vulnerable to problems with their physical health, including eyesight issues.

6 Ways Alcohol Affects the Eyes

Blurry or double vision are common short-term side effects of alcohol on the eyes, especially when someone drinks excessively. Although these vision problems usually begin to subside as the person sobers up, consistent drinking can cause serious permanent damage to your eyesight. Below are 6 ways alcohol can affect your eyes.


Weakened Eye Muscles

How alcohol affects your eyes has a lot to do with muscle. Long-term heavy drinking can weaken the muscles in the eyes over time, often permanently damaging the optic nerves. Optic nerves are sensory nerves that carry information to the brain. They tell the brain what we’re looking at so the brain can interpret it. When the muscles that support optic nerves weaken as a result of heavy drinking, it inhibits their ability to communicate with the brain, which can lead to several other issues with vision.

Long-term alcohol abuse can also lead to heart problems, hypertension, organ damage, and even cancer. At Banyan Treatment Centers Heartland, we offer Illinois addiction treatment for alcohol that includes medical detox, inpatient treatment, and various forms of therapy to help patients achieve long-term sobriety.

Slow Pupil Reaction Time

Drinking alcohol affects the reflex action of the eyes. Chronic alcohol abuse affects how quickly your pupils can dilate or adjust to brighter and darker settings. When your pupils are unable to dilate or contract, it’s difficult to adjust to bright settings, see in a dark room, and differentiate between colors. If you’ve ever had your pupils dilated and then walked outside without sunglasses on, then you may understand how uncomfortable this can be.


Rapid Eye Movement

Rapid eye movement or twitching eyes – also known as myokymia – can also be caused by heavy drinking. This is a side effect that stems from decreased pupil reaction time. When a person’s pupils don’t dilate as quickly as they normally would, their eyes may twitch or move rapidly in an attempt to focus. Not only can this cause discomfort, but it can also lead to tunnel vision, which inhibits a person’s peripheral vision and leaves them more vulnerable to accidents or injury.


Red Eyes

Bloodshot eyes are the most common side effects of alcohol on your vision. Alcohol causes the blood vessels in the eyes to swell, making them appear red or bloodshot. Not only can this change the appearance of your eyes, but it can also cause itchiness and irritation.


Yellow Sclera

How alcohol affects the eyes also has to do with its effects on the liver. The sclera is the white part of your eyes and yellow sclera is when the whites of your eyes turn yellow. Having yellow sclera is a common side effect of a condition called jaundice and commonly occurs in heavy drinkers. Yellow scleras can also indicate liver disease, which is also common in people who abuse alcohol. Alcohol is known for the damage it causes in the liver, including fat build-up, inflammation, and scarring. Drinking excessively can also cause a build-up of red blood cells in the liver, which causes the whites of the eyes to yellow.

Alcohol Amblyopia, Permanent Blindness

Also referred to as optic neuropathy, alcohol amblyopia is one of the more severe ways alcohol affects your eyes. It refers to permanent blindness or loss of vision, decreased peripheral vision, or reduced ability to see color. Although many studies have shown that vision loss is often caused by nutritional deficiency, some medical professionals believe that the toxic effects of alcohol can lead to this condition.


Alcohol nystagmus, a disorder that causes an unpleasant and involuntary rhythmic oscillation of the eyes, can appear in extremely intoxicated people. Causes of nystagmus can have various triggers, with alcohol consumption being a prominent one. The natural eye-hand coordination is disrupted by this jerking movement, substantially impairing vision. Nystagmus can make things appear hazy and unsteady, making it difficult for people to fix their sight on a specific item. Additionally, the degree of alcohol intoxication is frequently closely correlated with the severity of nystagmus, with higher blood alcohol levels worsening the eye's uncontrollable movements.

Addressing Alcohol Eyes Resulting From Abuse

So, how does alcohol affect the eyes? It can lead them to be damaged in both appearance and function, especially if allowed to persist over timeRaising awareness and educating people about the potential risks is the first step in mitigating this harm. People should be made aware of how alcohol affects vision and the different eye issues that can result from excessive alcohol use. Campaigns for public education can be quite effective in educating the general public about the value of moderation and responsible drinking. People may be more likely to make educated decisions regarding their alcohol intake and take preventative actions to safeguard their eyesight if there is a greater understanding of the effects of alcohol on eye health.

Regarding any physical damage that has already occurred, routine eye exams are essential. Specific disorders like dry eyes, nystagmus, and other visual impairments linked to alcohol can be identified by optometrists and ophthalmologists. Healthcare providers can suggest suitable actions and treatment programs to lessen the effects of alcohol on the eyes through these thorough eye exams. Early detection and management can aid in halting further vision degradation and allow people to promptly seek treatment for any associated eye diseases. Emphasizing the value of routine eye exams as part of general healthcare procedures helps motivate people to give their eye health and well-being top priority.

Alcohol also affects the skin, brain, heart, and organs, and the severity of these conditions can range from acute to chronic. In addition to physical repercussions, people with alcoholism may also experience relationship, financial, and work or school-related struggles. The longer you avoid getting help for alcoholism, the more likely you are to suffer physically and mentally.

If you or someone you love is suffering from or exhibiting signs of a substance use disorder, we can help. Call Banyan’s Heartland drug rehab now at 888-280-4763 and one of our team members can explain the admissions process and levels of care we offer.

Related Reading

Drinking Alcohol and Fever: Are They Connected?

The Troubling Dangers of Sleep Apnea Alcohol Death

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Eyes?
This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By using this website you agree to our Online Privacy Policy.
Learn more ›