How Alcohol Abuse Affects Your Eyes

close up of person's eye - alcohol abuseMany people have heard or experienced that having too much to drink can cause blurry or double vision. This is one example of a physical consequence of alcohol use on vision, but alcohol abuse affects your eyes in a number of other ways as well.

How Excessive Alcohol Consumption Causes Double Vision

You have probably heard that alcohol is a depressant. This doesn’t just refer to its effect on mood when consumed in large amounts.

In small quantities, alcohol makes a drinker feel relaxed. It’s why people who have had a stressful day might tell themselves that they would like to have a drink to help them unwind.

When someone drinks alcohol, it slows down the rate at which neurotransmitters are firing in his or her brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that communicate information throughout the brain and the body. The delay in sending those messages means that the person’s eye muscle coordination becomes sluggish. At this point, the person experiences double vision or blurred vision.

Excessive Drinking and Vision Loss

Drinking in moderation (defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) isn’t going to cause any lasting negative problems with your eyes. Even if you have an episode where you feel dizzy and your vision feels different from usual, these symptoms will probably resolve themselves as the effects of the alcohol wear off.

However, binge drinking and long-term alcohol abuse can damage the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. Alcohol consumption can cause early onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

AMD causes blurring in the central part of the field of vision. It leads to difficulties with activities that need to be performed while looking straight ahead, such as driving, sewing and reading. This disease affects the macula, which is the part of the eye that allows you to see things in detail.

For some people who develop AMD, their disease (and vision loss) develops very slowly. In other cases, the loss of vision in one or both eyes occurs quite quickly. It may appear as blank spots or areas that aren’t as bright as they were previously. This disease doesn’t lead to complete blindness, however, and it’s not painful.


Normally, the lens of the eye is clear. A cataract is a cloudy area on the lens. Depending on its location, a cataract can interfere with normal vision. Most people associate a cataract with people over the age of 55, but this eye condition can develop at any age. Cataracts usually occur in both eyes; however, one cataract may be worse than the other.

Signs of a cataract include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Lack of intensity when seeing color
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty seeing at night

A number of studies link increased risk of cataracts to high levels of alcohol consumption compared to those who either don’t drink or drink only in moderation.

Difficulty Seeing Colors

Excessive alcohol consumption can also slow down the pupil’s reaction time. Pupils won’t be able to dilate or constrict appropriately in response to changes in light conditions. In this situation, your ability to see colors and shades becomes impeded.

Bloodshot Eyes

One of the physical characteristics of someone who is a heavy drinker is bloodshot eyes. This change in appearance is due to alcohol abuse swelling the tiny blood vessels in the eye, enlarging their appearance and making the eyeball look red.

Alcohol abuse can take a toll on your eye health.

If you are concerned about the amount you are drinking and are unable to stop on your own, help is available. English Mountain Recovery offers flexible treatment programs to help clients move into recovery.

By Jodee Redmond


Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information only and is not intended as medical advice. If you have questions or concerns about your eye health, please consult a qualified practitioner.