Chronic alcohol abuse can have a dramatic impact on a person’s appearance. Possible consequences include significant weight gain, bloating, dull grey skin, bloodshot eyes, dry and thin hair, and reddening around the nose and cheeks. Some people even develop yellow eyes from drinking. In addition to altering how a person looks, yellow eyes from drinking and certain other physical changes may also signal serious internal problems.
Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Eyes to Turn Yellow?
If a person develops yellow eyes from drinking, this can be a sign that they have advanced alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for alcoholism. This yellowing, which can affect the skin around the eyes as well as the sclera (the part of the eye that should be white).
Having yellow eyes from drinking is referred to by medical professionals as alcoholic jaundice. Anyone who develops this condition due to drinking is in grave danger, and they should consult with a doctor or another qualified healthcare provider as soon as possible.
What Does it Mean?
Alcoholic jaundice is a sign that a person’s liver as been damaged by their continued use of alcohol. The liver plays a vital role in processing everything that a person eats and drinks.
When a person drinks heavily for an extended period of time, their liver can become inflamed. Yellow eyes are just one of several symptoms of an inflamed liver.
Other Severe Symptoms Caused by Alcoholism
As we alluded to at the top of this post, yellow eyes from drinking and certain other effects aren’t merely superficial cosmetic concerns. They can be signs that a person’s alcohol use has caused significant harm to the liver or another organ.
It usually takes several years of heavy alcohol abuse for a person to develop liver disease. However, by the time a person realizes that their drinking has harmed their liver, it may be too late to reverse the effects.
The early stage of alcoholic liver disease involves an accumulation of excessive fat within the liver. This is sometimes referred to as fatty liver, or steatosis. According to a 2017 report in the journal Alcohol Research, more than 9 out of 10 heavy drinkers (defined as having four or more drinks every day) will eventually develop this form of alcoholic liver disease if they don’t curtail their drinking.
If a person stops drinking, the effects of steatosis can be reversed. If the person continues to abuse alcohol, they may incur more serious and potentially irreversible harm.
One of the final stages of alcoholic liver disease is cirrhosis. By this stage, the liver will have developed significant scarring. This scarring is the result of the liver attempting to repair prior damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Each attempted repair causes slight scarring. Eventually, this scar tissue will prevent the liver from functioning as it should.
The following are possible symptoms and effects of cirrhosis:
- Persistent fatigue
- Nausea and loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Visible web-like blood vessels
- Swelling in the legs and feed
- Itchy skin
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Blood in the stool
- Testicular atrophy
- Disrupted menstruation
- Yellow eyes from drinking
- Memory loss
As described by the Mayo Clinic, the effects of cirrhosis cannot usually be reversed. If cirrhosis is identified early enough, and the person takes appropriate steps (including not drinking), the progression of the disease may be slowed or halted.
Without proper treatment, cirrhosis will eventually lead to liver failure, which can be fatal
Hepatitis refers to an inflammation of the liver. Three versions of this disease (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C) are caused by viral infections. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are about 100,000 new cases of hepatitis A, B, and C each year in the United States.
Like viral hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis also involves impaired liver functioning due to an inflammation. Unlike the viral versions of this disease, alcoholic hepatitis results from chronic alcohol abuse. Symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis can include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, and yellow eyes from drinking.
If a person with alcoholic hepatitis continues to drink, this can eventually lead to both liver failure and kidney failure, either of which can be fatal.
Are Yellow Eyes from Alcoholism Treatable?
It is important to remember that yellow eyes from drinking are a symptom, not a condition. This means that treatment must focus on the cause (which, in this case, is liver damage due to long-term alcohol abuse).
There is no medication that can cure alcoholic liver disease. However, if the problem is diagnosed early enough and the person quits drinking, the body may begin to repair itself. Dietary changes may help, and certain medications can reduce some inflammation.
The most drastic course of action is a liver transplant. As noted in a 2020 article in the journal Translational Gastroenterology and Hepatology, most transplant centers require patients to have a minimum of six months of sobriety before they can even be considered for a liver transplant.
This six month sobriety period can allow for the liver to begin healing, which may signify that the person does not need a transplant. It can also be a test to ensure that the patient is committed to their recovery, as lifelong abstinence from alcohol use is required after a person receives a transplanted liver.
Treat Alcoholism in Southern California Today
If you have become addicted to alcohol, don’t wait until your body has been seriously damaged before you begin to seek professional treatment. No matter how long you have struggled with alcoholism, the Phoenix Rising team can help you end your use of this dangerous drug. When you get the care you need, you can build a solid foundation for a healthy, alcohol-free future. Contact us today to learn more.