Drinking Alcohol and Smoking Cigarettes Effect on Vision

Drinking Alcohol and Smoking Cigarettes Effect on Vision

When discussing adverse effects of drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, eye conditions are not necessarily the primary focus, when in fact their harmful effects extend beyond the pervasive liver and lung damage that both are respectively known for. Their adverse impact is on the entire human body including the eyes.

Smoking cigarettes have significant long term effects; on the other hand, alcohol induced intoxication may lead to multiple short term and long term conditions.

Short term effects for alcohol

  • Blurred vision: General haziness of vision and inability to focus.
  • Damaged Contrast: Inability to distinguish different shades of objects. 
  • Delayed Pupil Reaction:  Restricted peripheral visual field as pupils do not open up as normal.
  • Dry Eyes: Natural tear formation is reduced and can lead to irritation and excessive tearing.
  • Migraines: Aforementioned damaged contrast and delayed pupil reaction can cause a headache.
  • Twitching Eyes (Myokymia) involuntary muscular spasms in the eyes.

Even if the quantity of alcohol is not excessive, the aforementioned conditions may manifest themselves and will not dissipate until fully sober.

Long Term Effects for alcohol and smoking

Alcohol and smoking share two serious conditions that may lead to blindness.

  • Age Related Macular degeneration (AMD): Cigarette smoke contains extremely toxic chemicals. Repeatedly exposing delicate retinal cells to these oxidants effectively fast-forwards the ageing process. As oxidant levels increase in the body, smoking decreases the levels of antioxidants and therefore reduces the body’s ability to protect itself.

Smoking also causes the blood vessels to narrow. This affects the blood vessels to the eye and increases overall blood pressure, which is another risk factor for macular degeneration. 

  • Cataract Formation: A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. Over time, cataracts can make your vision blurry, hazy, or less colorful. You may have trouble reading or doing other everyday activities. It is common with old age, however alcohol consumers and smokers are at high risk. Smokers are two to three times more likely to develop cataracts than non smokers. Discontinuing Alcohol and Smoking can help reduce the risk.

More effects of alcohol on vision

In addition to AMD and cataract formation long term drinking can have more vision impairing effects on the eyes.

  • Optic Neuropathy: symptoms include loss of vision, with colors appearing subtly washed out in the affected eye, which is due to damage to the nerve cells or neurons.
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to a host of abnormalities and eye conditions.
  • Vitamin Deficiency: Excessive consumption of alcohol can impair the liver’s absorption of vitamins that are required to maintain healthy eyesight.

The risk factor of all the eye conditions can be mitigated by reducing or stopping alcohol and smoking. If you have been consuming alcohol and cigarettes for a long time schedule an eye exam to learn more about your eye health.

For Further Reading:

Alcohol effects on eye health
Blood Alcohol Levels & Double Vision
CDC: Vision Loss, Blindness & Smoking
Learn about Eye Health Cataracts & Smoking
Pediatric Ophthalmology – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Smoking and Age Related Macular Degeneration

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