Guide to Alcohol and Laser Eye Surgery
Updated for 2024
Alcohol is a common feature in many of our lives, whether we enjoy a toast to celebrate important events, a glass of wine to unwind for the evening, or even the occasional eventful pub crawl. But while alcohol consumption is usually nothing to be too concerned about (when done in moderation), what are the rules when it comes to surgery? Is it safe to have a cheeky drink before or after your procedure?
In this guide, we’ll be answering all your questions on this topic in detail so you know everything you need to know about alcohol and Laser Eye Surgery.
We will be diving into this subject in some detail, but first, let’s sum up the key points that you need to know when awaiting Laser Eye Surgery:
- Ideally, you should refrain from consuming alcohol the night before, but at least limit consumption to one or two drinks;
- Drink plenty of water to compensate for the dehydrating effect of alcohol;
- Do not drink any alcohol on the day of your surgery;
- Refrain from drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours after your surgery;
- Limit your consumption for the first few days post-surgery.
That all sounds pretty doable, right? Now, let’s take a more in-depth approach to this topic.
Alcohol and Surgery
While it may not be as invasive as many other types of procedures, Laser Eye Surgery is still a form of surgery and should always be treated with respect and caution. Still, it is a far cry from the typical surgery that most of us think of when hearing this word. That is, it doesn’t require a period of fasting before your treatment or weeks of painful recovery afterwards.
You might compare Laser Eye Surgery to a distant cousin of the more typical surgical procedures – and a cool one at that. Sure, they might have the same last name, but that doesn’t mean they have much in common…
Laser Eye Surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that only involves the eye – an incredible organ with immense healing power. These two features permit a little more flexibility for prospective patients, including when it comes to alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, it’s important to understand why alcohol and surgery don’t really mix.
The sobering effects of alcohol on the body
Alcohol is a depressant. This means that it affects the central nervous system, slowing down messages between the brain and the body. While in small amounts, it may make us feel merry and more sociable, most of us will be well aware of the not-so-fun side of alcohol.
Things like slurred speech, slower reaction times and impaired judgement are just some of the symptoms of having a few too many. But these obvious physical side effects are only the tip of the iceberg. Alcohol also slows down and depresses the body’s vital functions.
This can mean a thinning of the blood as well as its ability to clot, making it difficult to stop the flow of blood after an injury. Unsurprisingly, this can have serious implications if you happen to have had a drink before surgery. Not only can this make it more difficult to control blood loss during the procedure, but it can also make it harder to control swelling afterwards.
And then we come to the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Have you ever noticed how you seem to need the toilet a lot more frequently when you’re drinking alcohol? That’s because alcohol makes it difficult for your body to absorb and retain water. While this might seem like nothing more than an inconvenience when you’re enjoying a few pints at your local, it is far from ideal when you’re heading into surgery.
While the risks of alcohol consumption may be slightly less problematic when it comes to Laser Eye Surgery, they still exist and it’s important to be aware of them.
The drying effects of beer goggles
If you wear contact lenses or are naturally prone to dry eyes, you may notice that the symptoms seem to get worse when you consume alcohol. Well, this isn’t a coincidence.
As we mentioned before, alcohol makes it more difficult for us to absorb water, resulting in us needing the toilet more regularly. But it also triggers our body to release the water that it has stored. This can affect moisture levels throughout our body – including in our eyes. Many studies have linked alcohol consumption to dry eye syndrome.
Luckily, the body is usually able to recover and bounce back fairly easily. In most cases, a good night’s sleep and rehydration with a large glass of water are enough to restore your eyes’ moisture (and help to. However, regular excessive cannabis consumption and sleeping in or over-wearing your contact lenses can lead to a more significant problem with dry eyes.
Your body’s hydration levels can affect your vision, so remember to drink plenty of water in the run-up to your procedure. This will help to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible and there are no unnecessary complications or interruptions.
Dutch Courage Before Laser Eye Surgery
Many of us will feel like we would benefit from a little Dutch Courage every now and then, particularly if we’re nervous or apprehensive about something. Understandably, awaiting surgery can be one of those moments. But, with all the potential complications associated with alcohol and surgery, you may be worried about enjoying a tipple or two in the run-up to surgery day.
But this isn’t really necessary. In most cases, it is completely safe to stick to your recommended intake in the week before your procedure. Of course, this comes with a limit and it is always recommended that you limit your alcohol consumption on the night before your surgery.
Generally, one glass of wine won’t hurt – just be sure to stay hydrated and not overdo it! This is far from permission to go on a binge the night before your procedure. If you show up to the clinic for your treatment after a night of heavy drinking, the clinic will likely refuse to perform your procedure.
While this may be a bit of an inconvenience, given the benefits and significance of a permanent vision upgrade, most patients are more than happy to swap the alcohol for a soft drink for one night. The good news? It won’t be too long til you can happily raise a toast to your new and improved vision.
Getting boozy on the day of the treatment
As you might have guessed from reading the previous section of this guide, consuming alcohol on the day of your surgery is a big no-no. So, if you’ve been planning a bottomless brunch with friends – you might want to postpone to a later date. While turning patients away on the day of surgery is an extremely rare occurrence, if you arrive at the clinic after a boozy brunch or lunch, you won’t be cleared for your procedure.
Still, alcohol is a familiar problem we face on the day of surgery – just not for the reason you might think.
This is most commonly down to other types of alcohol products – ones that you definitely shouldn’t drink! Products such as perfumes, colognes, hair sprays and mousses can often contain alcohol. So, we recommend that you check the ingredients on your go-to products and be sure not to wear them on the day of your surgery!
When it comes to these products, we’re not concerned that they might leave you feeling a little tipsy. In fact, the alcohol in perfumes and other products can affect the transmission of the lasers used in Laser Eye Surgery and – as you can imagine – this is a pretty important aspect of the treatment!
It is essential that we control the environment in the operating theatre to ensure all our equipment is working at 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 also be removed before surgery.
Toasting your new vision after Laser Eye Surgery
The recovery period following Laser Eye Surgery can be strange and somewhat overwhelming. All at once, the vision problems you’ve experienced for years gone and you can finally see the world around you without the help of glasses or contact lenses!
Not only can you wave goodbye to all the inconveniences and headaches associated with your previous form of vision correction, but you will also be faced with the prospect of having no limitations when it comes to sports, driving, and countless other activities. What’s more, contact lens wearers will no longer have to worry about the risk of an eye infection.
So, your first instinct might be to gather all your loved ones and show off your new and improved vision over a glass of bubbly – but is this a good idea?
Knowing when you can enjoy that first drink after your surgery is crucial to making sure your recovery goes as smoothly as possible. Thankfully, as we mentioned earlier – you really won’t have to wait too long until you can enjoy that first drink after your procedure.
Many people are surprised to learn that they can once again be enjoying their favourite tipple the day after Laser Eye Surgery. However, as always, this will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Your surgeon will be able to give you clear guidance at your post-surgery check-up on the day after your surgery.
Drinking alcohol and supporting your recovery
In the first 24 hours of your recovery, you must avoid drinking alcohol and wait for the go-ahead from your surgeon before you start ordering those cocktails at happy hour!
Even if your surgeon does sign you off to enjoy a celebratory glass of wine the day after your surgery, remember to take it slowly. While your eyes may be well on their way to recovery, it can take several weeks until your eyes are fully healed. This will largely depend on the procedure you have as well as your personal recovery rate. So, be sure to stick to the aftercare guidelines provided by your clinic – this will give you the best chance of a smooth recovery.
Now, let’s take a look at some things you should be aware of when reintroducing alcohol after Laser Eye Surgery.
Dry eyes is a common symptom after Laser Eye Surgery. While this is usually a completely normal part of the eye’s healing process, it can be uncomfortable. But don’t worry – following your treatment at London Vision Clinic, you will be provided with lubricating eye drops that will help to rehydrate your eyes and soothe any discomfort.
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.
However, as we mentioned earlier, alcohol can dehydrate the body – including the eyes. So, while your lubricating eye drops will help to address eye dryness after your Laser Eye Surgery, avoiding alcohol is one of the top five ways to avoid further discomfort.
Many people are surprised to learn just how fast and straightforward Laser Eye Surgery recovery can be. However, there are still some important aftercare guidelines that you need to be aware of to reduce the risk of complications. Your surgeon will discuss all of these with you on the day of your surgery, but let’s look at an example.
In the days following your treatment, you should avoid rubbing your eyes. This might sound easy – and for the most part, it is! – but as many of us will know, alcohol is awfully good at reducing our concentration and awareness. Rubbing your eyes unconsciously after a few drinks can easily lead to unnecessary irritation. This is another good reason for limiting your alcohol consumption for at least a few days after Laser Eye Surgery.
It is important to be aware of the dangers of alcohol concerning surgery – but also outside of this frame. It is recommended that we don’t consume more than 14 units of alcohol per week to best protect our health and ensure we are not consuming a harmful amount.
Still, you will likely be glad to hear that your recovery from Laser Eye Surgery will most likely be short and complication-free, so you can enjoy your new and improved vision with a celebratory cocktail before you know it! Although, let’s face it – you’ll be enjoying your new vision with or without that cocktail!
So, however, you decide to celebrate and whether or not you have a drink in hand – here’s to you and your new, glasses-free 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.
Laser Eye Treatment Fees start from £5,900 for both eyes. Very complex treatments may cost more.
This article has been updated for 2024.