Ocular hemodynamic effects of acute ethanol ingestion

Ophthalmic Res. 1996;28(3):193-200. doi: 10.1159/000267902.


Purpose: Because the protean biological effects of ethanol include acute alterations in both cortical function and circulatory control, we investigated the effect of acute alcohol consumption on retrobulbar hemodynamics and contrast sensitivity in healthy human volunteers.

Subjects and methods: Twelve young adults received orange juice with and without ethanol in a double-masked fashion. The ethanol dose was sufficient to raise blood alcohol to 0.07 +/- 0.003 g/dl. Retrobulbar hemodynamics were assessed at baseline and twice at elevated blood alcohol by color Doppler imaging.

Results: Acute elevation of blood alcohol lowered intraocular pressure from 13.0 +/- 0.7 to 10.7 +/- 0.7 mm Hg (p < 0.05). In contrast, elevated blood alcohol left peak systolic velocity, end-diastolic velocity and the resistance index constant in three retrobulbar arteries (ophthalmic, central retinal and posterior ciliary). For example, in the central retinal artery, peak systolic velocity, end-diastolic velocity and the resistance index averaged 11.0 +/- 1.3 cm/s, 2.8 +/- 0.4 cm/s and 0.75 +/- 0.03 before ethanol, as compared with 10.5 +/- 1.0 cm/s, 2.9 +/- 0.3 cm/s and 0.72 +/- 0.03 after ethanol (all p = NS). Alcohol ingestion also failed to alter either visual acuity or contrast sensitivity, as assessed under both photopic and mesopic conditions.

Conclusions: Although ethanol has widespread cognitive and cardiovascular effects, at blood levels near legal definitions of intoxication we found it ineffective in altering either retrobulbar hemodynamics or contrast sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Flow Velocity / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Contrast Sensitivity / drug effects
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Eye / blood supply
  • Eye / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Intraocular Pressure
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Ophthalmic Artery / drug effects*
  • Ophthalmic Artery / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Retinal Artery / drug effects*
  • Retinal Artery / physiology
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol