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Can you drink alcohol after laser eye surgery? If you’re longing to toast your 20/20 vision with a glass of champagne, you’ll have to hold off for just a little while and wait to get the go-ahead from your surgeon. If all goes well, you will be able to drink alcohol again between 1 and 7 days following surgery.

How alcohol can affect your recovery

Allon Barsam looks into eye telescopeAlthough the recovery period for laser eye surgery is usually very brief, it’s important to follow a few guidelines immediately after the procedure, to allow your eyes to heal. It’s common sense to avoid wearing eye makeup for example, as this carries a high risk of infection in the early days after eye surgery.

While drinking beer or wine may seem harmless in comparison, the alcohol in your favourite tipple can have a significant effect on your body’s ability to recover:

  • As you’ll know if you’ve ever woken up thirsty after a night out, alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body. In the days following laser eye surgery you’re already at a greater risk of dry eyes, so it’s advisable to avoid anything that could make this worse. Keep your fluid intake up – but hold off on the alcoholic drinks for the time being.
  • Lowering the defences. A healthy person is normally pretty good at fighting off the bacteria that cause infection. But following any type of surgery, we are more vulnerable than usual. Alcohol also reduces our natural resistance to bacteria, and drinking it during the recovery period could increase your chances of infection.
  • Interfering with medication. You might be prescribed antibiotics or other medication to help your eyes to heal, but alcohol can stop these from working properly. It could also lead to side-effects such as sickness or dizziness; take advice from your surgeon regarding your own medication.
  • Risk of swelling. When we drink alcohol, the blood vessels in the body become dilated. This isn’t usually a problem, but following surgery it can lead to swelling and inflammation, which could slow down your recovery time.

The risk of complications after laser eye surgery is low and most people will be back enjoying their usual everyday activities within a few days. However, drinking alcohol after LASIK or any other form of laser vision correction is likely to increase your chances of experiencing side-effects. To keep the risks to a minimum, we advise patients avoid drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours following surgery, sometimes a few days more.

What happens to your vision when you drink?

In normal circumstances, drinking alcohol in moderation isn’t bad for your health. Nevertheless, even small amounts of alcohol can have a noticeable effect on your eyes, such as blurred vision and dilated pupils. That’s because alcohol relaxes the muscles, including those we use to focus. As we’ve seen above, ethanol also leaves us dehydrated, leaving us at risk of dry eyes.

Drinking too much alcohol over an extended period of time can have more serious consequences, including an increased risk of cataracts, double vision and even sight loss. If you’re unsure about whether your alcohol intake could be a problem, find out more about alcohol and its effects on vision.