Researchers recently investigated the early effects of alcohol consumption on tear function and found distinctive changes. The study included 44 eyes of 22 patients (17 male, five female; mean age 35.3 years) and 44 eyes of 22 age- and sex-matched control subjects. The alcohol group drank 200mL of 25% vodka and the control group drank water. Subjects ate the same dinner the night before and drank the same quantity over the same time frame.

The researchers measured breath alcohol level, tear evaporation and blink rate, tear lipid layer interferometry, tear film break-up time, fluorescein and rose bengal staining, Schirmer test and Visual Analog Scale of dry eye symptoms before and after alcohol intake.

They observed no significant changes in the water group’s tear function, but the alcohol group showed significant increases in several areas, including mean tear evaporation and mean blink rates (from 10.6 blinks/min to 13.5 blinks/min at two hours and 15.1 blinks/min at 12 hours).

Mean tear film break-up time shortened significantly from 15.0 to 5.0 seconds 12 hours after alcohol intake. The alcohol group also demonstrated tear film thinning 12 hours after alcohol intake, as measured with lipid layer interferometry. Schirmer test values decreased significantly 12 hours after alcohol intake, and the mean Visual Analog Scale score for dryness increased significantly from baseline at 12 hours.

The researchers concluded that “the tear film and ocular surface epithelia showed early and indicative quantitative and qualitative changes associated with visual disturbances after alcohol intake.”

Simsek C, Kojima T, Dogru M, et al. The early effects of alcohol consumption on functional visual acuity, tear functions, and the ocular surface. Eye & Contact Lens. July 20, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].