6 ways that increased Christmas drinking affects our vision
23 December 2019
Feeling merry and bright
When we think of Christmas, we’re all imagining the amazing food, the traditional carols, and the beautiful lights. For many people, however, the festive season would not be complete without the drinks commonly consumed in the month of December – eggnog, mulled wine, warm spiced cider and, of course, a glass of Bailey’s after dessert.
It’s well known that the festive season is a time of excess all round with presents we often don’t need, plates piled high with food, and a wine glass that somehow always seems to be topped up! This is all well and good and, for plenty of people, it’s what Christmas is all about. So, what better time of year than now to take a look at exactly what alcohol does to our vision? We’ve already written about the long-term effects of high alcohol consumption on your eye health, but what about the short-term fuzzy vision we get when we’re feeling a bit merry after one too many mulled wines? Here are six of the most common temporary issues that come with increased drinking:
1. Dry eyes
One of the most common short-term effects of drinking a bit too much is dry eye syndrome. If you already suffer with dry eyes, you’re likely to struggle a bit more following a big drinking session. If you don’t usually have dry eyes, you might find them feeling a bit scratchy the morning after drinking. Symptoms include redness, light sensitivity and a stinging sensation but you can usually relieve dry eyes with simple hydrating eye drops.
2. Distorted vision
When you’re a few drinks into the office Christmas party, you might notice that the edges of your vision appear slightly fuzzy. This is because, in order to see, your eyes send a visual signal to your brain to be processed and viewed as an image. Alcohol slows down the speed of these neurotransmitters and can weaken your eye muscle coordination, resulting in blurry vision. This is usually a temporary effect and disappears the next day as the alcohol starts to leave your system. However, in people who drink heavily on a regular basis, distorted vision can become a more permanent fixture, damaging the eyes seriously over an extended period.
3. Bloodshot eyes
Red eyes are as synonymous with hangovers as turkey is with Christmas. While they can occur, in part, due to alcohol-induced dry eyes (as discussed above), red eyes also make an appearance as a result of blood vessel changes in the eye. Consuming large amounts of alcohol can widen the blood vessels in your eyes, making them appear even more visible and red in colour. This gives your sclerae a pinkish tint but that usually goes away once the alcohol leaves your system. However, like with many short-term side effects of drinking, if you continue to drink regularly, red eyes could be longer-lasting and more difficult to get rid of.
4. Pupils slow to react
The cause of your pupils being slow to react is actually very similar to the cause of alcohol-induced blurry vision. Alcohol is a sedative and therefore slows many of your body’s responses, including that of your pupils. The size of your pupils determines how much light enters your eyes – they dilate when it’s dark and contract when it’s bright. If you’ve had a bit too much to drink, you might find that bright lights appear especially blinding, because your pupils are taking too long to contract and therefore let in too much light. This is one of the many reasons that driving drunk is so dangerous – you cannot adapt on oncoming headlights quickly enough.
5. Twitching eyes
We’ve all had twitchy eyes from time to time and, while it doesn’t cause any actual harm, it can be really irritating. Often thought to be caused by stress, eyelid twitching (known as myokymia) can also be triggered by large alcohol intake. The effects can also be made worse by straining against your alcohol-induced blurry vision to see properly, feeding into a vicious circle and worsening the myokymia. Thankfully, a good night’s sleep and reducing your alcohol consumption usually gets rid of any twitching.
Migraines are much more serious than a regular hangover headache and can be triggered by a number of factors such as stress, hormones and, in many cases, alcohol consumption. Migraines can make you especially sensitive to light and also affect your vision. This often comes in the form of blind spots, blurry peripheral vision, or zig-zag patterns of light. If you’re susceptible to migraines, avoiding excessive drinking might be something to consider over the festive period, particularly given how debilitating severe migraines can be.
So, whether you’re making your own eggnog or bringing out a bottle of red to have with your roast dinner, bear these side effects in mind over the next couple of weeks. Christmas is all fun and games until you’re struggling to get out of bed on Boxing Day to make your turkey sandwich!
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