Guide to Alcohol and Laser Eye Surgery

Updated for 2023

Can I drink alcohol after Laser Eye Surgery? Or the night before?

Alcohol has become a fact of life for many people, whether for social or even therapeutic reasons. Feeling completely knocked out by the flu? A soothing alcohol-infused nightcap can often make us feel a little better. Spending the night with the in-laws? Alcohol is almost a prerequisite!

We have all sneaked a small one when we probably shouldn’t have and, for the most part, that’s fine. But when it comes to something as serious as surgery, what are the rules? Is it safe to drink alcohol before or after your procedure?

A Brief Summary

In this article, we will be diving into this subject in some detail, but we sum up what you need to know below:

  • Keep your consumption to a maximum of one to two drinks the night before, but ideally, you should refrain;
  • Drink plenty of water to compensate for the dehydrating effect of alcohol;
  • Avoid drinking any alcohol on the day of your surgery;
  • Have at least a 24-hour break from alcohol after your surgery;
  • Take it easy for the first few days, your eyes may be drier than normal so stay hydrated.

And that’s it, not too bad, eh?

An In-Depth Explanation

Laser Eye Surgery is indeed a form of surgery and as such, it should always be treated with respect and caution. However, it is far from the typical kind of surgery that many people immediately think of when hearing this word. It isn’t the type of surgery that requires 24 hours of fasting before and weeks of recovering afterwards. In fact, in many ways, Laser Eye Surgery is like the cool and progressive distant cousin of your typical surgery – with little in common but the same last name.

As such, Laser Eye Surgery also provides more flexibility on alcohol. This is largely down to two key features of the procedure: it is minimally invasive, and it targets the eye – an organ with incredible healing power.

So, let’s take a deep dive into the implications of alcohol use in relation to Laser Eye Surgery. Ahead, we’ll be getting straight into answering common questions, like “can I drink the night before my procedure?” and “how soon after Laser Eye Surgery can I drink alcohol?

But before we do, it is first essential to understand why alcohol and surgery never really make the best match.

The sobering effects of alcohol on the body

It is important to know that alcohol is a depressant. While it might make us feel more sociable and a bit squiffy, most of us will be well aware of the more undesirable effects of alcohol. Thinks like slowed speech, a loss of coordination, impaired judgement and poor reaction times are symptoms that we have all experienced after having a few too many.

The fact is that alcohol slows down and depresses the body’s vital functions. But aside from these obvious physical side effects, alcohol also triggers unseen effects inside the body.

Alcohol causes a thinning of the blood and affects the blood’s ability to clot. This can make it difficult to stop the flow of blood after injuries such as cuts and scrapes. Unsurprisingly this can have serious implications if you are heading into surgery. Not only can alcohol consumption lead to problems controlling blood loss during surgery but also with managing swelling after a procedure.

The dehydrating effects of alcohol can also make it difficult for your body to absorb and retain water. This might seem harmless – with most people experiencing nothing worse than a pounding head and a vicious thirst the morning after a heavy night – but when it comes to surgery, this is far from ideal.

While the risks of alcohol consumption in relation to Laser Eye Surgery may be less problematic, they still exist.

Much more than just beer goggles

If you wear contact lenses or are naturally prone to dry eyes, you may have noticed that your eyes seem to dry out when you consume alcohol. This is down to the dehydrating effects of your favourite tipple!

Following exposure to alcohol, our body begins to lose the water that it has stored. Not only does it make us want to go to the toilet more frequently, but it also affects moisture levels on the surface of the eye. Plenty of reports have linked alcohol intake with dry eye syndrome.

This might sound quite dramatic but, luckily, the body is usually quick to recover and soon bounces back after a good night’s sleep and a vast intake of water. However, it can become a problem if you consume alcohol excessively on a regular basis, sleep in or over-wear your contact lenses, or if your eyes are compromised due to illness, age, or poor health.

Getting a little tipsy before Laser Eye Surgery

When we feel a bit nervous, it is often all too easy to relax our nerves with a couple of beers or a glass of wine. Understandably, awaiting surgery day can trigger these all too familiar urges. But with all the reasons given above, you may feel that you should stay as far away as possible from alcohol in the days preceding your Laser Eye Surgery procedure.

But this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, sticking to your normal intake in the week before surgery isn’t generally a problem. Of course, this does come with a limit and it is recommended that you limit your alcohol consumption the night before your surgery. For example, one glass of wine won’t hurt – just make sure you stay hydrated and don’t overdo it.

Your body’s hydration levels can affect your vision, so remember to drink plenty of water. This will help to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible and there are no unnecessary complications or interruptions.

It might sound like you’ve been given the go-ahead to go on a binge the night before your procedure. This is not the case. While one small beer or glass of wine is generally fine, if you have a heavy night of drinking before heading for your appointment, the clinic will likely refuse to perform the procedure.

It’s not every day that you receive a vision upgrade or finally get to ditch your contact lenses or glasses. For this reason, many patients choose to forego alcohol just for one night and stick to soft drinks. The good thing? It won’t be long before you can celebrate your new and improved vision with a real drink.

Getting boozy on the day of the treatment

After the previous section of this article, it won’t be surprising to hear that drinking on the day of your procedure is a big no-no. If you decide to have a boozy brunch before your treatment, there is no way you will be cleared for your surgery. In fact, you probably won’t even make it past reception.

In all honesty, turning someone away on the day of surgery because they have turned up a bit drunk is a rare occurrence. But alcohol is still a familiar problem we face on the day of surgery – just not for the reason you might think.

It isn’t just alcohol-based drinks you need to be wary of on the day of your surgery, but also any other products with high alcohol content. For example, we recommend that you don’t wear alcohol-containing hair spray, mousse, perfume, or cologne on the day of your treatment.

No. This isn’t because it could soak through your skin and leave you feeling a bit tipsy. It is because these products can affect the transmission of the laser used in surgery. We carefully control the environment in the operating theatre to allow our equipment to work at its optimum levels. This includes limiting anything that could get in the way of the laser’s journey to the eye.

For this reason, all makeup products – particularly eye makeup like eyeliner, eyeshadow, and mascara – should be removed prior to surgery.

A cause for celebration after Laser Eye Surgery

The hours and days following Laser Eye Surgery can be a strange time. Suddenly the troubles you’ve endured for so long are gone. You can see the world with clarity you may never have experienced without the help of glasses or contact lenses.

You are still enjoying the novelty of not having to fumble for your glasses or contacts as soon as you wake up in the morning. There are no longer any restrictions when it comes to the sports and activities you can do. Even if you decide you want to go skydiving – there is nothing stopping you!

And perhaps most important of all, if you were a contact wearer, your chances of developing an infection or eye disease are dramatically reduced.

With all these improvements, it’s only natural that you will want to celebrate. You might want to show off your new vision to everyone you know right away; but even if this isn’t the case, you might have plans to meet up with friends or a work do planned for the day after your surgery.

Whatever the reason, knowing when you can enjoy that first drink after your surgery is crucial to making sure your recovery goes as smoothly as possible.

So, you will be glad to hear that you won’t have to refrain from your poison for too long. In fact, most people can once again be enjoying their favourite tipple the day after their Laser Eye Surgery. Having said that, this will be dependent on your individual case. Your surgeon will be able to give you a clearer indication – or the go-ahead – at your post-surgery check-up on the day after surgery.

Drinking alcohol and supporting your recovery

Following Laser Eye Surgery, it is common to experience dry eyes. This is because your eyes are still in the acute stages of healing but, while this may lead to some discomfort, it is generally nothing to worry about. Following your treatment at London Vision Clinic, you will be given lubricating eye drops to relieve any discomfort and hydrate your eyes.

In the first 24 hours, it is paramount that you avoid alcohol and any other substances with high alcohol content. Always wait to receive the go-ahead from your Laser Eye surgeon before going ahead and ordering those cocktails at happy hour!

While you might be able to put yourself a relaxing glass of wine on the night after your surgery, remember to be cautious. After 24 hours, your eyes are likely well on their way to recovery; however, it can still take several weeks until they are completely healed. For this reason, it is recommended that you take it low and slow on the alcohol in the days following your treatment. As a rule, always stick 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 eye’s surface.

As we mentioned earlier, alcohol also dehydrates the body – including the eyes. Although your lubricating eye drops will be helpful in addressing eye dryness following your surgery, avoiding alcohol can be one of the most effective ways to avoid further discomfort.

Decreased Attention

One of the appeals of Laser Eye Surgery is the relatively fast and straightforward recovery period. However, there are still some specific aftercare guidelines that you should follow to reduce the risk of any complications.

For example, you should avoid rubbing your eyes for at least a few days after your procedure. This may sound easy but, as many of us are all too aware, alcohol can cause a dip in our concentration and awareness. This might leave you rubbing your eyes unconsciously and unknowingly causing damage and further irritation.

Final Words

Fortunately, your recovery after Laser Eye Surgery will likely be a short one. This period will pass quickly and you’ll be enjoying your new and improved vision while sipping your favourite cocktail before you know it.

It is important to be aware of the dangers of alcohol outside the frame of surgery, too. A good general rule is to stay within the government-issued guidelines for alcohol consumption to ensure you are not consuming a harmful amount.

Finally, let’s be honest, after having Laser Eye Surgery, you don’t need alcohol to start making the most of its benefits. So whatever you decide to do and whether or not you have a drink in hand, cheers to you and your new and improved vision!

If you have any further questions regarding your recovery from Laser Eye Surgery, get in touch. One of our friendly clinic coordinators will be happy to help. If you’re interested in the benefits of Laser Eye Surgery – Book a Consultation today.

Our Fees start from £5,500 for standard treatment for both eyes. Complex prescriptions may cost up to £6,900. Flexible finance makes the best more affordable: Choose payments from £56 per month or a low 10% initial payment. Finance from one to five years is available, including a 24-month interest-free option. Find out more.

This article is been updated for 2023.