How Does Alcohol Impair Vision?

By James Madeiros


Got Beer Goggles?

If you’ve ever had a little too much to drink, you may have noticed that things around you look a lot better than usual, or sometimes a whole lot worse. It all depends on your point of view, so to speak, and alcohol has a way of changing that.

To dispel any rumors up front, it should be noted that alcohol consumption does not cause blindness, or at least not in the conventional sense of total and permanent loss of vision. Studies show that it does, however, increase incidences of “inattentional blindness” as well as cause temporary vision problems.

Inattentional blindness, also known as perceptional blindness, is described as when we fail to recognize and acknowledge something that is clearly within our line of sight, and this can manifest itself in many ways under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol’s effect on vision has more to do with how it impacts the central nervous system and the brain, as opposed to causing an actual visual impairment in the eye. So, instead of saying your eyes are playing tricks on you when you’re drunk, it’s more accurate to say your brain is playing tricks on you and using your eyes to do it.

That’s not to say visual impairment by way of the brain doesn’t occur. Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption can result in blurred vision, color impairment and sensitivity to light.

As for your date getting prettier or that Waffle House breakfast actually looking delicious, a lot of alcohol can make that happen, too, which may serve you well to remember when you’re thinking about one more drink.


Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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