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Alcohol’s effects on the eyes can range from temporary changes to long-term vision problems. Depending on an individual’s drinking habits, alcohol consumption can cause bloodshot or dry eyes, blurred vision, cataracts, optic neuropathy, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The Short and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Eyes

Excessive alcohol consumption can impact various bodily systems both in the short and long term. Alcohol’s impact on the eyes can cause temporary vision problems, such as blurred vision or bloodshot eyes. Over time, frequent alcohol abuse can lead to irreversible damage to the eyes, including optic neuropathy, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). As a diuretic, alcohol causes the body to dehydrate, including the eyes.

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Heavy alcohol abuse is often associated with poor nutrition, particularly in vitamins A, C, and E, which are essential vitamins for eye health. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to visual impairments and potentially facilitate long-term damage. Oxidative stress from chronic alcohol consumption can lead to cell injury and other tissue damage, including the retina. Oxidative stress is a significant risk factor in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and glaucoma. Alcohol can raise blood sugar levels and cause blurred vision. 

Some of the most common temporary and long-term effects of alcohol on vision include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Increased light sensitivity
  • Reduced peripheral vision
  • Decreased color perception
  • Optic neuropathy
  • Cataracts
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

The immediate effects of alcohol intoxication on the eyes are temporary. However, frequent and excessive alcohol intake can lead to permanent, irreversible vision damage.

Bloodshot Eyes

One of the most immediate effects of alcohol on the eyes is red or bloodshot eyes. When alcohol is consumed, it enlarges the blood vessels in the eyes, resulting in a reddish appearance. This noticeable effect is temporary and usually resolves as the body metabolizes the alcohol.

Dry Eyes

Alcohol is a diuretic, which leads to dehydration in the body, including the eyes. Dehydration reduces the production of tears that keep the eyes lubricated, leading to dry eyes. Dry eyes from alcohol abuse can cause light sensitivity, irritation, burning, and a gritty sensation in the eyes.

woman experiencing eye problems from alcohol abuse, alcohol's effects on the eyes and vision problems

Blurred or Double Vision

Another short-term and well-known effect of alcohol on the eyes is blurred or double vision. Alcohol intoxication impairs gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity in the brain, which may result in visual impairments. Other neurological functions affected by severe intoxication can also cause individuals to experience difficulties focusing and seeing clearly.

Blurred or double vision from alcohol intoxication alongside impaired judgment is one of the significant concerns of driving while under the influence. Not only is it illegal to drive with alcohol in your system, it is perilous and can lead to severe traffic hazards, car accidents, and death.

Optic Neuropathy

Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to long-term damage in the body, including liver cirrhosis, memory loss, cancer, and vision problems. Individuals who engage in alcohol or tobacco abuse are at an increased risk of optic neuropathy due to nutritional deficiencies and genetics. Optic neuropathy can lead to permanent vision loss or scotoma (blind spot in vision). Symptoms of optic neuropathy may include decreased peripheral vision, blurry vision, and reduced color perception. Without proper treatment, optic neuropathy can lead to irreversible damage.

Cataracts

Long-term alcohol abuse, also known as an alcohol use disorder (AUD), makes individuals more susceptible to developing cataracts. Cataracts are when the lens of the eye(s) becomes cloudy, causing blurry vision and even blindness. While cataracts are primarily age-related, excessive alcohol intake can increase someone’s risk of experiencing cataract symptoms before the age of 40. Symptoms of cataracts include cloudy or blurry vision, increased light sensitivity, trouble seeing at night, and decreased color perception.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition most common in individuals over 50. AMD reduces visual sharpness (acuity) and can lead to central vision loss. Studies suggest an association between heavy alcohol use and the increased risk of developing macular degeneration.

Risk factors of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) include heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), genetics, smoking, and obesity. Many of AMD’s risk factors are also associated with alcohol use disorder (AUD), including heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and smoking.

woman in alcohol addiction treatment for alcohol abuse, vision problems from alcohol abuse, cognitive behavioral therapy in drug rehab

Prevention and Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders (AUDs) can lead to severe health issues, mental illness, and an overall reduced quality of life. Spreading awareness about the risks associated with heavy alcohol consumption and addiction is crucial for increasing public knowledge and preventing alcohol-related issues. Alcohol-related problems, including physical and mental health issues, social consequences, relationship struggles, and legal matters, can deter individuals from engaging in destructive drinking habits.

Support groups, psychotherapy, and alcohol addiction treatment are all fundamental for treating alcohol use disorder (AUD). Addiction therapies in alcohol rehab programs include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy (MET), trauma therapy, and holistic therapies. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that motivates patients to identify and challenge negative thoughts and behavioral patterns contributing to their addiction. Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) helps individuals modify doubts and build their motivation to stop drinking and commit to recovery.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment in West Palm Beach, FL

Stopping alcohol abuse and getting treatment can contribute to improving eye health, mental health, and overall physiological health. Our South Florida alcohol rehab programs in West Palm Beach, FL, are committed to providing patients holistic healing and addiction recovery.

If you struggle with alcohol abuse or drug addiction, reach out to Rock Recovery Center for drug rehabilitation in Palm Beach!

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