Alcoholic neuropathy is one of the many nerve disorders that are associated with alcohol abuse. It is prefaced by reduced nerve function theoretically caused by toxins in the alcohol. Deficits in nutritional intake have a hand in this as well.
Normal symptoms can include:
- loss of sensation
- tingling in the feet/hands
- weak ankles
- weakened muscles and a burning feeling in the feet.
Gastrointestinal symptoms can include:
- loose bowel movements
- feelings of nausea, possibly vomiting and constipation.
Men may experience:
- the inability to hold liquid (incontinence)
- and even impotence in some cases.
In severe occurrences of alcoholic neuropathy:
- the autonomic nerves are damaged
- autonomic functions are involuntary, like the heart beat and respiration.
In my case I had numbness in the extremities, feet and hands (Peripheral Neuropathy). This has got no worse now that I no longer drink alcohol, but does sometimes become a problem when outside in cooler weather.
How To Find Out
A few different tests can help diagnose this condition. There is a neurological exam, a procedure called electromyography, nervous conductivity velocity testing and, in severe cases, a biopsy of the suspected problem nerve.
The neurological exam is comprised of several very simple and painless examinations. These tests focus on the functionality of the nerves, including autonomic nerves, test if the surrounding muscles react to stimuli.
The electromyography procedure is done to test electrical activity in the muscle. If the nerve impulses are not conducted properly and quickly between nerve and muscle, neuropathy is probable.
Usually, symptoms like itching or loss of sensation call for electromyography to be performed to locate the root cause. This procedure can also distinguish muscle weakness from lack of use or actual neuropathic damage (neuropathy).
Nervous conductivity velocity tests the speed of sent electrical impulses in the nerves and is normally administered with electromyography at the same time.
A biopsy of the small nerves can determine the type of disease present.
To treat alcoholic neuropathy, it is necessary to treat the patient’s alcoholism. The absence of alcohol significantly lessens the symptoms of the disease. Therapy is used to ease pain and discomfort. There are also medications for sensation loss. A healthy, balanced diet is also extremely important.
Alcoholic neuropathy is as bad as it sounds and the damage is permanent. Once it is done, it cannot be undone. While it does not end life usually, it does reduce the quality of your life to a great degree. The symptoms can be halted and will not, in most cases, deteriorate further, but what is already done, is done.
The best method to avoid this type of life altering condition is not to abuse alcohol in the first place. If you think you or a loved one may have a problem, seek treatment for alcoholism early on. The longer the disease lingers, the more damage is done.
If ANY of the symptoms listed here are present, consult a doctor immediately and get help.
Alcoholic support groups are numerous and can be found anywhere, especially hospitals or medical centers. Alcoholics anonymous is a great start that could save your life.
Watch for the signs and take action, either for yourself or someone you love.