Drinking can be a lot of fun, but it can also be quite the opposite. Hangovers the next day, bad decisions all night, stumbling about in an attempt to get to the washroom; a night of liquid courage can be pure chaos! Some would argue that all that chaos is part of the fun; embarrassing stories are often hilarious in hindsight. All of this happens because of alcohol’s effect on your brain, and wouldn’t you know it, your brain is pretty intimately tied to your eyes.

When you drink, your muscle coordination can be thrown off; that’s part of the reason for all of the stumbling and wide, exaggerated gestures. Part of your ability to see clearly stems from eye muscle coordination; when your eyes aren’t properly coordinated, you can experience blurred or even double vision. That’s one of the many, many reasons it’s not safe to drive drunk.

There’s more visual impairment than that, though! Alcohol also causes your pupil to constrict and dilate more slowly, meaning it adjusts to light less quickly; definitely hazardous when you’re on the road; it might even lead to some missteps on the dance floor! Alcohol can also exacerbate dry eye, so you might find yourself rubbing your eyes as the night goes on, even though you don’t feel sleepy. Contrast sensitivity, the ability to differentiate between lighter and darker items, is also reduced as you continue drinking.

Alcohol can also cause migraines, and while the intense pain from a migraine can definitely make looking at anything difficult, they can be even more visually impairing if, like me, you get auras before the pain begins! When sufferers like me get migraines, little spots of light accumulate in your vision, effectively blinding you before a migraine begins; how fun!

There are also potential long-term consequences from heavy alcohol consumption that can affect your vision; heavy consumption is linked to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as well as cataracts. There’s even some evidence that heavy drinking can cause a toxic reaction in the optic nerve, leading to blindness.

We’re not trying to tell you to stop drinking altogether, of course; whether or not you drink is a lifestyle choice with its own benefits and consequences. It bears repeating that the impact to your judgement, motor skills, and vision mean you should never drink and drive; find another way to get home. Take the bus, call a friend, pretty much anything; when you’re drunk, not even your eye muscles are coordinated right, let alone your other muscles.

The short term effects of alcohol on your eyes should dissipate by the next morning, along with your headache and dry mouth. That said, if the effects do not disappear, or you suspect long-term effects, it’s a good idea to visit your optometrist, as double vision could be a sign of serious health problems. Winnipeg eye care is available even in the case of double vision emergencies; don’t hesitate to visit them immediately.