When you think of damage caused by alcohol, you might think of damage done to the liver or mental health. Those are certainly some of the most dangerous risks associated with alcohol addiction, but alcohol is such a harmful substance that it can endanger almost every organ in your body.
One part of the body that people don’t often think of when they think of the dangers of alcohol addiction is the eyes. But often, people battling an addiction to alcohol suffer from what’s known as “alcoholic eyes”: a set of temporary and permanent physical effects that toxic alcohol consumption can have on your vision.
Your Eyes and Alcohol
Alcoholic eyes is a colloquial name for the effects of long-term alcohol use on the eyes. When you think of a person who abuses alcohol, you might imagine their eyes to be bloodshot or even have a yellow tint. What you may not know is that drinking alcohol can have much more serious, long-lasting consequences on your eyesight—including permanent blindness.
Here are some of the most common ways that alcohol can affect the eyes.
Anybody who’s had a drink too many could tell you that alcohol can cause significantly blurred vision. This is thought to be caused by a few different factors: alcohol raises our blood sugar levels, which can temporarily cause blurred vision.
Additionally, your brain’s overall functioning is affected when you drink too much alcohol, which can cause the communication between your eyes and your brain to slow down, distorting your vision. Your pupils also take a longer time to dilate under the influence of alcohol, leading to something called “loss of contrast”: your eyes are no longer able to tell the difference between certain shades and colors. This can be extremely dangerous while driving.
Red or Bloodshot Eyes
Another common effect of alcohol on your eyes is getting bloodshot eyes from drinking too much. Alcohol causes the blood vessels in your eyes to get larger and fill with blood, which creates a red, bloodshot appearance. Your eyes might also get dry and irritated when you drink because alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes you need to urinate more frequently. And when you urinate frequently, your body (including your eyes) becomes dehydrated. This causes many people to experience eye pain after drinking.
Getting red eyes after drinking is not a long-term consequence, and your eyes should regain their normal color once the alcohol has left your system. But while these effects are temporary, even a small amount of alcohol can cause the uncomfortable effects of eye dryness.
Alcohol and Eyesight Loss
One of the scariest possible consequences of alcohol on the eyes is permanent blindness or vision loss. Researchers think that people who drink heavy amounts of alcohol over a long period of time have an increased risk for diseases like age-related macular degeneration and optic neuropathy. The cause is unclear, but it may be due to alcohol-related vitamin A deficiency.
Blindness caused by alcohol isn’t common, but it’s possible. Unhealthy amounts of alcohol consumption can lead to a decrease in peripheral vision, weakened eye muscles, a thinning of the cornea, and loss of color vision—all things that can lead to permanent vision loss.
How to Treat Alcoholic Eyes
Some of the effects of alcohol on the eyes are temporary or easily treatable. Bloodshot eyes from drinking, for example, can usually be fixed with lubricating eye drops. And having a drink every now and then isn’t likely to harm your eyes seriously, but drinking a substantial amount on a regular basis can lead to long-term consequences to your eyesight, including permanent blindness.
If you’re afraid you’re addicted to alcohol, and are experiencing eyesight problems or any other physical signs of alcoholism, then it’s essential that you get the help you need and deserve to beat this disorder. Alcohol addiction is a disease, and with the right treatment, you can recover from it.
Our experienced staff at The Woods at Parkside has been delivering evidence-based addiction treatment for over 20 years. Treatment with us starts with detox, where you can safely withdraw from alcohol and other drugs in a supervised setting. Then, you can continue your treatment in our 50-bed residential facility, where you’ll receive the best in addiction treatment from qualified, multi-disciplinary staff. Partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs are also available.
Alcohol can cause dilated pupils, but at a different rate than other drugs. When people drink alcohol, their pupils dilate slower than they usually do, which can cause blurred vision or tunnel vision.
Yes, even drinking one glass of wine can cause dry eyes. Research has shown that drinking even small amounts of alcohol can lead to dryness in the eyes, because alcohol is a diuretic. This means it makes you urinate more frequently, and that dehydration can make your eyes feel uncomfortable.
Yes, alcohol often makes your eyes red. This is because alcohol dilates the small blood vessels in your eyes. They fill with blood, causing a red, bloodshot appearance.
In the short term, alcohol causes people to have bloodshot and dry eyes as well as blurred vision. But in the long term, alcohol consumption can cause a nutrient deficiency in the body which is known to cause optic nerve damage and even blindness.
Alcohol can have both short-term and long-term negative effects on your eyes. Alcohol can cause mild symptoms, like making the blood vessels in your eyes to dilate, causing redness. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause dry eyes, which leads to pain. More seriously, alcohol can lead to permanent damage to the optic nerve, which may result in permanent alcohol-related blindness.