Guide to Alcohol and Laser Eye Surgery

A week with an unbearable ear infection and no soothing nightcaps? A whole night sober with your mother-in-law?

Yeah right.

We all know there have been times we’ve sneaked a small one when we shouldn’t have, and for the most part, that’s okay. But when it comes to things like surgery, there can be consequences.

When compared to traditional surgery, which includes things like a 24-hour period of fasting and weeks spent off work, Laser Eye Surgery is like the cool and progressive distant cousin, with nothing in common but the same last name.

Laser Eye Surgery has a bit of a more flexible policy on alcohol. This is mainly thanks to two things that separate Laser Eye Surgery from the majority of surgical procedures: it is minimally-invasive and the eye has an amazing power to heal itself.

In this brief guide, we’re going to dive into this relationship between Laser Eye Surgery and alcohol in more detail – Getting straight to the bottom of the barrel on questions like ‘Can I drink before the night before the procedure?’ and ‘How soon after Laser Eye Surgery can I drink alcohol?’

But before we do, it’s important to understand why alcohol and surgery never really make a great cocktail.

The sobering effects of alcohol on the body

Alcohol is a depressant – not in the sense it makes you empty the fridge and sob whilst listening to Elton John at 4 in the morning – although that can happen but meaning it slows down and depresses the body’s vital functions.

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Many of us are very familiar with how this affects us on the outside; things like slowed speech, uncoordinated movements, and impaired judgement and reaction time. But what is this doing to us on the inside?

Ever slipped and scraped your knee on a night out and whatever you did you just couldn’t stop the blood from flowing? Well, one thing alcohol does is affect the blood’s ability to clot. This can lead to problems in controlling blood loss during surgery and managing swelling after a procedure. And you know the pounding headaches and dry mouth you get the day after a big one? You can thank that to alcohol disrupting your ability to absorb and retain water.

The risks of alcohol and Laser Eye Surgery, while less worrisome, still exist.

Much more than just beer goggles

If you’re a contact lens wearer or naturally prone to dry eyes, you may already be familiar with how alcohol seems to make them feel as dry as the Sahara.

When alcohol enters the body, one of the things that suffer (after your vocal cords and sense of rhythm) is the surface of the eye. There are plenty of reports that link alcohol intake to dry eye syndrome.

It all sounds very dramatic, but as I’m sure you’re aware, the body is quick to cycle through this process and soon bounces back come Monday morning. It only becomes a real problem if you do things like consume alcohol excessively, sleep in or over-wear contact lenses, or if your eyes are already compromised due to illness, age, or health.

Getting a little tipsy before Laser Eye Surgery

In the period leading up to Laser Eye Surgery, it’s normal to be a little nervous. And when you’re feeling a little nervous, there’s not much we like to do more than have a few beers or a relaxing glass of wine.

But with all the reasons mentioned above, you may get the impression you’ll have to stay as far away as possible from alcohol in the days before your Laser Eye Surgery procedure. But this isn’t strictly true: in fact, sticking to your usual intake in the week before your treatment shouldn’t be a problem at all.

However, it is recommended not to overdo it, particularly the night before Laser Eye Surgery – limiting yourself to one of your tipple of choice (doubles don’t count) so you are completely sober and hydrated for the procedure.

Your body’s level of hydration can have a slight effect on your vision on the day, but mainly this is simply to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible and there are no unnecessary complications or interruptions.

The fact is, if you typically consume an average amount of alcohol and have healthy eyes, enjoying a drink the night before Laser Eye Surgery shouldn’t be a problem at all. The key is only to have a small amount (a small glass of wine or one beer) and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

It’s not every day you get a visual upgrade, so most patients decide to avoid alcohol for one night and stick to water or soft drinks. As you’ll see, it won’t be long before you can celebrate afterwards with a real drink.

Getting boozy on the day of the treatment

Before we get to that, let’s just be clear that if you have a heavy night of drinking before heading for your appointment, the clinic will likely refuse to perform the procedure. Sorry, just how it is.

Unsurprisingly, then, if you have a boozy brunch on the day of treatment, then there’s no way you’ll be cleared for surgery – you probably won’t even make it past reception.

It’s not often we have to turn people away because they’re wandering the halls a little bit tipsy, but nevertheless, alcohol is still a familiar problem on the day of surgery. Not so much from drinking it, but wearing it.

Using or wearing anything with high alcohol content like hair spray, perfume, cologne, or mousse are to be avoided on the day of the procedure. These can affect the transmission of the laser beam. The environment in the laser room is very carefully controlled so that the laser beam travels through the air without bumping into anything on the way to the surface of the eye.

Similarly, any products containing chemicals or small particles like makeup, eyeliner, eye shadow, or mascara should be removed before coming in for surgery. This is one of the reasons why it’s convenient to take the full day of the surgery off work. You can relax at home and not worry about doing anything or seeing anyone but the takeaway delivery guy.

A cause for celebration after Laser Eye Surgery

In the hours and days after having Laser Eye Surgery, suddenly the troubles you’ve put up with for so long have vanished, and you’re able to see the world with greater clarity and enter it with much greater freedom from glasses or contacts.

Each morning, you awake to the surprise that you no longer need to fiddle with contact lenses or fumble for your glasses to start the day. There are no longer any restrictions on which activities and sports you can engage with, opening you up to things like swimming, skiing, diving, and water sports. And perhaps most important of all, if you were a contact wearer, your chances of developing an infection or eye disease are dramatically reduced.

For this reason, it’s only natural you’ll want to celebrate. And even if that’s not the case, you may simply have a work do or other social event planned for the night of the surgery. Whatever the reason, finding out when you can get back to drinking alcohol after Laser Eye Surgery is paramount to ensuring your recovery goes as smoothly as possible.

Thankfully, you won’t have to go cold turkey for too long. In fact, you can be back consuming your favourite tipple the day after Laser Eye Surgery.

With that being said, the exact amount of time you will need to go without drinking is dependent on every individual case. But in general, it’s typically 24 hours, as London Vision Clinic optometrist Alexandra Lyons explains rather matter-of-factly in the video below.

Drinking alcohol and supporting your recovery

So, to quickly sum up, in the initial 24 hours after surgery, your eyes are in the acute stages of healing and will be slightly drier than usual. Therefore, it’s paramount you avoid drinking any alcohol or use any products with high alcohol content. Most clinics provide complimentary eye drops you can use to help keep your eyes well lubricated.

It’s important to note here that although your eyes reach about 80 percent of their full recovery within just one day, it can take several weeks for them to hit 100 percent. For this reason, it’s recommended to take it easy on the alcohol over the days that follow, sticking to the aftercare guidelines recommended by your surgeon and optometrist.

Below are a few reasons we advise patients to introduce alcohol back into their lives gradually and in moderation. 

Dehydration

A common and temporary side effect of Laser Eye Surgery is ‘dry eye’. Dry eye occurs in the recovery phase when the cornea is still adjusting and there may be a lack of moisture on the surface of the eye.

As drinking alcohol dehydrates the body, it can increase the chance of experiencing dry eye. Although you’ll be given lubricating eye drops to help manage the symptoms, avoiding alcohol is one of the best ways you can help decrease any discomfort.

Decreased Attention

It’s pretty easy to look after your eyes following Laser Eye Surgery. However, as mentioned, there are certain aftercare guidelines that are recommended to ensure you steer clear of any complications.

One of these is taking care not to rub your eyes for at least the first few days. As many of us are all too aware, drinking alcohol can cause a dip in our ability to concentrate and have full awareness of ourselves. When recovering from Laser Eye Surgery, this could mean rubbing away at your eyes unconsciously and causing damage.

Final Words

Fortunately, recovery after Laser Eye Surgery is incredibly short so this period of best behaviour will pass quickly, and you’ll be enjoying your new improved vision whilst sipping your favourite alcoholic beverage before you know it.

In order to avoid the dangers of alcohol, a good general rule is to stay within the government issued guidelines for alcohol consumption.

Let’s not forget, though, after having Laser Eye Surgery, you certainly don’t need alcohol to celebrate your new improved vision and make the most of its benefits. So whatever you decide to do and whether or not you have a drink in hand, cheers.

If you have any other questions relating to alcohol and Laser Eye Surgery, or any other queries regarding the treatment, drop it in the comments below or why not give one of our cheery clinic coordinators a call?

Guide to Alcohol and Laser Eye Surgery