How Alcohol Affects 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 center for drug and alcohol treatment in Gilman, 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 alcoholism treatment in Illinois 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.

So, can drinking alcohol affect your eyes? Absolutely. 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 a drug or alcohol problem, we can help. Call Banyan Heartland now at 888-280-4763 and one of our team members can explain the admissions process and levels of care we offer.


Alyssa who is the National Director of Digital Marketing, joined the Banyan team in 2016, bringing her five-plus years of experience. She has produced a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. Through strategic marketing campaign concepts, Alyssa has established Banyan as an industry leader and a national household name.