How Alcohol Affects Your Eyes

Although light consumption of alcohol probably won't cause any health problems, drinking alcohol excessively can have harmful effects on your body, including your eyes. Heavy drinking of alcohol may cause problems with your vision and overall eye health including the following conditions.

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Decreased Visual Performance

Your overall visual performance may be altered since drinking heavily impairs brain function. You may have blurred vision or double vision due to weakened eye muscle coordination. You may also experience delayed reactions while driving.

Slow Pupil Reactions

Alcohol tends to affect the speed at which your iris constricts and dilates. A driver that has been drinking alcohol cannot adapt as quickly to oncoming headlights.

Decreased Peripheral Vision

Drinking alcohol may decrease the sensitivity of your peripheral vision. This may give you the effect or perception of having tunnel vision.

Decreased Contrast Sensitivity

Drinking too much alcohol can alter your contrast sensitivity, or how precise you can discern between shades of gray. Driving in rain or fog will be much more dangerous.

Optic Neuropathy

Also referred to as tobacco-alcohol amblyopia, people who drink or smoke in excess can develop optic neuropathy though it is rare. You might develop a painless loss of vision, decreased peripheral vision, or reduced color vision.

Even though studies have shown the vision loss to be a result of a nutritional deficiency, some professionals believe that the condition develops because of toxic effects of alcohol and tobacco.

Optic neuropathy can also develop as a result of methanol poisoning. Methanol is used in some hand sanitizers instead of ethyl alcohol. In some cases, people who abuse alcohol may resort of other forms of alcohol such as methanol.

Frequent Migraines

Alcohol has been shown to be a trigger for severe migraine headaches in some people. You may experience a temporary, but debilitating visual aura before the onset of the headache. The visual aura may appear as blind spots, graying of vision or zig-zag patterns of light.​

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Castro JJ, Pozo AM, Rubiño M, Anera RG, Jiménez del barco L. Retinal-image quality and night-vision performance after alcohol consumption. J Ophthalmol. 2014;2014:704823. doi:10.1155/2014/704823

  3. Bayless SJ, Harvey AJ. Testing alcohol myopia theory: examining the effects of alcohol intoxication on simultaneous central and peripheral attention. Perception. 2017;46(1):90-99. doi:10.1177/0301006616672221

  4. Timney B, Ferreira M, Matson S. A signal detection analysis of the effects of alcohol on visual contrast sensitivity Perception. 2016;45(12):1358-1374. doi:10.1177/0301006616658306

  5. Joseph S, Al-ali S, Tripathi A. Tobacco-alcohol optic neuropathy. Is complete recovery possible? Oman J Ophthalmol. 2014;7(1):50. doi:10.4103/0974-620X.127948

  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA updates on hand sanitizers consumers should not use.

  7. Rockett FC, De oliveira VR, Castro K, Chaves ML, Perla Ada S, Perry ID. Dietary aspects of migraine trigger factors. Nutr Rev. 2012;70(6):337-56. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00468.x

Additional Reading
  • Alexander, Larry J, OD. Primary Care of the Posterior Segment, Third Edition. McGraw-Hill.