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Alcoholic Neuropathy

Alcohol abuse wreaks havoc on the body and can lead to long term damage and many health issues. Several people that struggle with long term alcoholism develop nerve damage referred to as alcoholic neuropathy.

What is Alcoholic Neuropathy?

Alcoholic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. Long-term drinking causes nutritional deficiencies and the build-up of toxins. The ability to absorb nutrients, such as protein and vitamin B12, is diminished from alcohol. The functionality of organs such as the stomach, liver, and kidneys, is altered, making it difficult for them to remove waste material. This causes toxins to build up and impact different areas of the body, such as the nerves. Severe and ongoing damage to the nerves is not reversible. Neuropathy typically takes years of alcohol abuse to develop; however, some experience the effects faster than others.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholic Nerve Damage

Sign and symptoms of nerve damage can vary for each person based on medical history, length of alcohol abuse, and the impact of alcohol on their bodies. Below are some of the most commonly experienced signs and symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy.

  • Dizziness-especially when eyes are closed
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bladder function impairment
  • Muscle weakness and spasms
  • Impotence
  • Lack of pain from injuries
  • Hypersensitivity to touch
  • Inability to recognize temperature changes
  • Pain or tingling
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty swallowing or talking
  • Lack of coordination
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Decreased sensation in limbs

Symptoms vary from person to person but will typically start as mild and increase over time. Continued alcohol intake will make symptoms worse.

How Does Alcoholic Neuropathy Effect Your Body?

The effects of alcoholic neuropathy on your body can be split into four main categories: decreased sensation, weakened autonomic nerves, pain/hypersensitivity, and muscle weakness.

  • Decreased sensation. Sensory nerves in the hands and feet are diminished. This leads to bumping into things and scraping the skin often, as you are unaware it is happening. Not feeling these minor bumps and scrapes can lead to infections and bleeding because you are not protecting the damaged area. Sensory skills, such as balance and coordination, will be diminished. Walking and fine motor skills such as moving your fingers can become more difficult, and you will feel off-balance, especially when you close your eyes. This can lead to falling and causing further injury.
  • Weakened autonomic nerves. Autonomic nerves allow the bladder, stomach, and intestines to function properly. Weakened autonomic nerves from alcohol abuse can impair bowel and bladder functions. This damage can also lead to sexual dysfunction.
  • Pain/hypersensitivity. Nerve damage can lead to hypersensitivity to touch, most commonly in fingers and toes, making a light touch feel incredibly painful. Alcohol neuropathy can lead to consistent pain in the hands and feet that feels like burning, throbbing, or sharp pangs. The pain may diminish for a period of time and then worsen again.
  • Muscle weakness. As with decreased sensation and hypersensitivity, muscle weakness from alcoholic neuropathy mostly occurs in the hands and feet. Motor weakness is caused when damaged nerves are unable to send messages to your muscles to function properly.

Excessive alcohol abuse can lead to neuropathy, causing painful sensations and impairment of regular motor functions. Chronic drinking causes many health concerns in the body that are long-lasting. Medications cannot cure alcohol neuropathy. However, pain can be managed with certain medicines. Some have reported a decrease in symptoms after they stopped drinking.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism, get help today at Archstone Behavioral Health! Archstone is a drug and alcohol rehab facility in Palm Beach, Florida. We offer a full continuum of care, starting with detox and extending past your stay at our facility with aftercare planning. Call (561) 264-4961 to get the help you need and start your journey in recovery.

Sources:
https://www.alcohol.org/comorbid/polyneuropathy/
https://www.verywellmind.com/understanding-alcoholic-neuropathy-4142252
https://www.addictioncampuses.com/alcohol/polyneuropathy/