Alcoholic Eyes: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

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Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

Alcoholic Eyes: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Drinking large amounts of alcohol can have countless negative effects on your life. It’s important to understand how heavy and long-term drinking can impact your overall health, including your eyesight. You may have heard the term ‘alcoholic eyes’ - but how exactly does alcohol impact your eyes? 

That’s what we’ll be exploring in this blog post. Read on to learn the effects of alcohol on your eyes, and the connection between alcohol abuse and vision problems.


How Does Alcohol Impact Your Eyes?

The study of eye health is known as "ophthalmology" - a field of medicine that focuses on eye diseases and visual problems.

Ophthalmology also explores how certain factors can impact the eye - including alcohol. The effects of alcohol on the eyes can be both short-term and long-term, affecting various aspects of your ocular health.

Heavy drinking can not only cause visible eye irritation and swollen eyes but also impact overall eye health. This can lead to long-term eye problems. Let’s explore some of the short and long-term effects of alcoholism on the eyes.


Short-Term Effects Alcohol Can Have On The Eyes

When you consume alcohol, even in moderate amounts, it can have immediate effects on your vision.

For example - you may notice you have red eyes after drinking alcohol. This is because when you drink alcohol, your blood vessels expand. This increases blood flow, causing red eyes and irritation. Here are some short-term signs of alcoholic eyes to be aware of:


Puffy Eyes

The more you drink alcohol, the puffer your eyes may become - especially shortly after drinking alcohol. One of the reasons behind this is that alcohol disturbs your sleep cycle - and lack of sleep can cause puffiness around the eyes. You may also notice dark circles around your eyes.

Another cause of puffy eyes after drinking is that alcohol consumption can lead to bloating, so you may experience bloating around your eyes.


Bloodshot Eyes

One of the most noticeable effects of alcohol consumption is the appearance of bloodshot eyes. This occurs because alcohol can dilate the blood vessels in the eyes, leading to redness and a tired appearance.


Blurry Vision or Blind Spots

Alcohol can impair your ability to focus, making your vision temporarily blurry. This is because alcohol slows down your eyes’ ability to dilate/ constrict.

This can be uncomfortable and can be especially dangerous if you attempt to drive or operate heavy machinery after drinking.


red puffy eyes


Long-Term Effects Alcohol Can Have On The Eyes

As well as immediate effects, alcohol can cause long-term damage to your eyes. This could include age-related macular degeneration, weakened ocular muscles, eye paralysis, eye perforation, and much more.


Increased Risk of Eye Diseases

Long-term alcohol abuse is associated with an increased risk of eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, retinal vascular disease and more.

These eye conditions can lead to irreversible vision loss. Drinking heavily could worsen the early stages of AMD. Light drinking, however, doesn’t appear to have much impact, and drinking alcohol isn’t thought to impact the late stages of AMD.

Chronic alcohol use can increase the risk of glaucoma and is linked to changes in intraocular pressure.

Studies also reflect that the more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to develop cataracts. Excessive alcohol consumption can significantly increase the risk of age-related cataracts.


Dry Eye Syndrome

Alcohol can dehydrate the body, including the eyes. Chronic dehydration can worsen dry eye syndrome, causing discomfort, redness, and a gritty sensation in the eyes.


Yellow Eyes

Long-term heavy drinking can lead to liver damage, resulting in a condition called jaundice. One of the visible signs of jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and of the whites of the eyes, which can suggest serious liver issues.


yellow eyes


How Does Alcohol Affect Your Face?

Alcohol doesn’t just affect your eyes - alcohol affects your whole face too. For instance, alcohol consumption can cause facial flushing, which is a temporary reddening of the skin.

This happens because alcohol can dilate blood vessels throughout the body, leading to increased blood flow to the skin's surface.

Moreover, chronic heavy drinking can contribute to premature ageing of the skin, making a person appear older than their actual age.

This accelerated ageing is due to the dehydrating effects of alcohol and its interference with collagen production, leading to the development of wrinkles and fine lines.

Drinking can also impact the appearance of your nose. This is known as ‘drinker’s nose’ or ‘alcoholic’s nose’.


How to Treat Alcoholic Eyes

To treat alcoholic eyes, start by prioritising eye health and overall well-being. Here's how:

  • Hydrate - Drink plenty of water to flush out toxins and keep your eyes hydrated.
  • Healthy Diet - Eat foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids to support eye health.
  • Rest - Get enough sleep to allow your eyes to rest and recover from alcohol-induced strain.
  • Eye Drops - Use lubricating eye drops to relieve dryness and irritation caused by alcohol consumption.
  • Regular Check-ups -  Visit an eye doctor regularly to monitor your eye health and address any concerns promptly.
  • Protective Eyewear - Wear sunglasses outdoors to shield your eyes from harmful UV rays and reduce strain.


How To Prevent Alcoholic Eyes

If you are noticing issues with your eyes, the first thing you should do is speak to your GP or consult an optician.

The most significant thing you can do to prevent alcoholic eyes is to reduce your alcohol intake and monitor your alcohol consumption. Track the amount of alcohol units you’re drinking, and make appropriate changes.

However, if you have an alcohol addiction, you may find it difficult to do so. Alcohol use disorder is a complex condition that affects the brain and leads to a compulsive desire for a substance or behaviour, despite harmful consequences.

Alcohol abuse can have a detrimental impact on your eyes and overall health. While short-term effects like bloodshot eyes and blurred vision are reversible, long-term heavy drinking can lead to serious eye diseases and premature ageing of the skin. Seeking treatment is key to recovery if you notice signs of alcoholism.

Alcohol addiction treatment typically consists of an alcohol detox programme, addiction therapy, and ongoing support. It may involve a combination of a medical approach and a holistic approach.

At Help4Addction, we can connect you with the best alcohol rehab clinic for you. Whether you’re looking to detox from alcohol at home, or you’re looking for comprehensive rehab at a private residential rehab facility, we can secure you a place.

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