Drinking a glass or two of wine a night can have health benefits but having too much alcohol negatively affects one’s health. Having too much to drink  can impact the body short-term and long-term. But what does alcohol do to our eyes, exactly? Like with the rest of the body, alcohol’s effect on our eyes can have immediate and long-lasting impacts.

Immediate/short-term effects

  • Lessened sensitivity to contrast: This ability is impaired by alcohol; a recent study showed that alcohol reduces the eyes’ ability to adjust for contrast and brightness by 30% when participants were around the legal driving limit.
  • Slowed pupil reaction: Like other reactions, alcohol slows down the eyes’ ability to dilate and constrict. This slowed reaction would lead to difficulty in adapting to quick lighting contrasts, such as oncoming headlights.
  • Dryness: Consuming even a serving or two of alcohol has been found to exacerbate symptoms of dry eye.
  • Twitching: Eyelid twitching (myokymia) is sometimes triggered by the intake of an excessive amount of alcohol.

Long-term damage

  • Prenatal exposure: Just as it can be damaging to the overall health of a fetus, excessive exposure to alcohol can permanently damage the eyesight of a baby in the womb. Many infant eye problems, including difficulty with eye coordination, drooping eyelids, and an underdeveloped optic nerve, are associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
  • Increased likelihood of cataracts: Several studies have shown an increased formation of cataracts in patients who consumed higher amounts of alcohol.
  • Increased risk of AMD: Excessive intake of alcohol has been identified as a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration, leading to a loss of vision.
  • Tobacco-alcohol amblyopia: Heavy drinking can also lead to this condition, also known as Optic neuropathy, which also results in vision loss.
  • Vitamin deficiency: Excessive drinking hinders vitamin absorption by the liver, which can lead to decreased vision. A vitamin A deficiency, for example, can cause dryness, thinning of the cornea, night blindness, corneal perforation, or blindness from retinal damage.

If you think you may be suffering from any of these long-term effects, contact us to make an appointment to get things checked out as soon as possible. If you think you or someone you know may have a problem with alcohol, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. and Alcoholics Anynymous have resources to help.