Alcoholic Neuropathy: Signs and Symptoms

A reader left a question on the article “Can you become Allergic to Alcohol?” Her question was

What is alcoholic neuropathy? Have heard the term and interested in understanding.

She went on to add the comment,

It is just amazing when you read the comments from other people, and it is like they are just describing the events of your own life.

Alcoholic Neuropathy: Symptoms

Excessive drinking, usually over years, can lead to nerve damage. The first sign of nerve damage may be in numbness or tingling in the hands, legs and feet. Ulcers or sores may develop on the legs and feet. There may be pain or burning sensations in the feet, or cramps in the calf muscles. The leg muscles may waste, leading to leg weakness and frail ankles. Alcoholic neuropathy often shows up first as clumsiness and uncoordinated movement.

Furthermore, there may be confusion, memory loss, speech slurring or incoherence, even when sober.

Nerve damage can be anywhere in the body. It may lead to incontinence or male impotence. In some cases, there is damage to the autonomic nervous system, which, among other things, affects heart rate and breathing.

If he or she is a heavy drinker, it is irrelevant whether he is a functioning alcoholic or a skid-row alcoholic. Symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy in a heavy drinker are also signs and symptoms of advanced alcoholism.


Diabetic neuropathy has some of the same symptoms as alcoholic neuropathy. Furthermore, alcoholics have an increased risk of diabetes. Only your medical doctor has the knowledge and skills to make the differential diagnosis and make a referral to a specialist for a neurological exam. Your doctor may detect signs of neuropathy, which the patient cannot.

Alcoholic Neuropathy: Treatment

Abstaining from alcohol and eating a balanced diet may alleviate some of the symptoms, if the damage is not too extensive. There are prescription meds that can further reduce neuropathic pain.

One can only hope that most alcohol abusers will recognize they have a problem and deal with it long before it reaches the stage of alcoholic neuropathy.

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62 thoughts on “Alcoholic Neuropathy: Signs and Symptoms

  1. Hi Dr Neill,

    I am an addiction therapist and work with older adults. Seeing cases of peripheral neuropathy is quite common. Many times they will enter confined to a wheelchair or using a walker upon arrival. Within the time frame of a 4-6 weeks in an inpatient alcoholic treatment center, and proper care it is not uncommon to see people leave under their own power with a little pep in their step. This, in fact is the case more often than not.

    Bill Urell


  2. Thanks Dr. Neill, this site is great. Things are so crazy when you live with a drinker that you are never really sure if what you are seeing is real. Living with a drinker effects us as we see diffferent signs and wonder is that the alcohol or something else. We are in denial as well not wanting to see the signs. Thankyou for answering my question.

  3. Thanks, Todd.

    And thank you for being there with the Recovery Connection. We are both in the business of lending a helping hand.

    The hardest part for me is watching marriages and families deteriorate because of substance abuse, along with the ongoing denial there is a problem.

    Just before Christmas, I lost a daughter (liver failure), who never acknowledged she had a drinking problem.

    Keep up the good work.


  4. Hi Dr. Neill…

    Thank you for this article. I realize now that what I am seeing is the effects of a long history of alcohol abuse.

    Funny thing is I never thought my husband was "really" an alcoholic as he functions quite well at work. Everyone loves him, he’s the best guy. No one sees what I do. My husband is a plumber/beer drinker (pretty much comes with the territory they say), for the past 30 years. In the last few years he has had a hip replacement, his feet and ankles are shot, and probably every other joint is in pain. He also suffers from gout largely due to his drinking beer. He seems to be missing or absent much of the time, and his breathing scares me at night.

    I am trying to get him in for a physical as it has come to the point, I don’t think he’ll be around in the next 5 years….and he’s only 55.

    This is an excellent article, and I am going to show it to him…maybe this will finally sink in. I can only hope!!

  5. I finally had the Ah-Ha moment. Still kind of in shock. So thankful for this website as I have so many questions. I know my husband’s body is starting to shut down. Loss of control over bladder and bowels and no sex life. We are both only 42 years old. He just recently wrecked our vehicle after a night of binging with his so called friends. He was so bad he couldn’t remember leaving for work the same morning as his wreck. I took one look at our vehicle and realized that that is what has happened to me too. It is nice to have hope as I am now taking my life back. I am worthy of happiness and restful sleep. I am letting go and letting God.

  6. I too am taking back my life, but my husband is trying every trick in the book to make me fall back into our old routine. I have moved upstairs and am putting the house on the market next week, taking the kids and moving away. I feel sorry for him and we had a great physical relationship and could have still had those moments physically, but I keep SAYING NO. I moved upstairs away as I said I would never let him bully me again, and he hasn’t. But I know if I gave myself to him again he would feel that he had me back. It is so hard.

    Al-anon tells you it is a disease, and we should detach and stay and look after ourselves., Dr neill you say run, I believe it is the best decision to go in the long run, but why is it so hard. I know I am obviously co-dependent and am trying to break the cycle I dont want to be that person anymore, with him or the kids, I realise now it is about me too. When I am rejecting him now physically, how do I explain

  7. Sharon,

    Your back-and-forth feelings are a true illustration of codependency. You or anyone else in what I call the “alcoholic dance” would benefit from reading or re-reading “Addiction and Codependency Simplified,” the special report you can download when you get on my notification list.

  8. I know, Dr neill, I have downloaded and read every bit of your stuff, as well as a big stack of books on co-dependency. I know I have it bad. It is quite strange at the moment. For years I could not remember a lot of my past, I have spent so many years in a blur, I partied when I was young big time, was very naughty chasing lots of fellas, spent my time at home enabling my dad with his drinking and listened to him and mum argue verbally. Mum switched off from all of us, I suppose to cope with dads drinking, she finally gave him the ultimatum to stop drinking or leave after we left home (my brother and I). Anyway I remember cleaning up dads vomit so mum would not be cranky and picking him up when he was drunk and fell over on the road, I loved my dad heaps. I suppose when you’re little, you think when your dad is drunk, he is just more fun. Mum never worried about having people visit the house much, I suppose she was embarrassed.

    Today I was covering my al-anon book and I thought I can use this when I move up to qld. That’s where I am going when the house sells, and then all the memories of the shit in my child hood were all there, I am crying now, all the things that hurt all those years ago, are all back. And I have spent the last 14 years, picking up my husband off the road,and cleaning his vomit, and raising two kids, working full time, studying a degree, and doing everything for everyone for all of my life. I havent changed since I was a kid. Nobody looked after me back then, and I never looked after me either.

    I know why I am co-dependent and the relationship with my husband has been so hard. My husband is a replica of my father and it so hard to leave. It just kills me, and I know I have to go to get better. Some days I am so strong and other days I could just curl up and cry forever. History has repeated itself, my dads parents were alcoholic, and mum’s dad as well. What a messy family! If only they all knew the problems that are passed through the generations and what a curse alcoholism is. I suppose I should be happy, maybe all the pain I have had inside is starting to come out, and that is why I have felt like nothing all these years, attaching to the wrong people, and looking after my husband for the last 14 years just like I looked after dad. Dad doesnt drink anymore. Mum said he just said that he would show her that he could stop and he did.

    Co-dependency is about me and all these issue I have. Just how again do I fix me?

  9. I have gained so much from reading this site, have realised by making positive changes in my life and having a plan to look after myself for a change is a step in the right direction to end my co-dependency. It is really hard when you need to change something that you do automatically without thinking everyday. I appreciate all the help and support you have and still are giving me.


  10. Hi Sharon,

    You are getting it! The first part of change, if you want to change, is to become more aware, that is, become more conscious of your automatic thoughts and reactions.



  11. You are right I am getting it, I have become aware with your help. I told you that night I sat and read every message on your site till midnight here down under, and something clicked. I thought I had to then find where the steps were written like from 1 to 10 on what to do next, and then I just kept reading and remembering what I want, and what I DONT WANT, and have moved in a positive direction to look after me and stay on my path.

    It is so hard. There have been a few moments as we are living in a big two storey house and he is downstairs, still drinking, goes to work, but does nothing else. I have stayed so strong this time and not given in. I am usually like a marshmallow, and always submit and fall back into my old destructive patterns and hate myself for doing it, and know that I am doing it. Rang the real estate today and the solicitor and the bank, and sold the piano, sometimes I cant believe I am doing it…….

  12. looking for addiction co dependacy simplified. how can i get in touch with this book.

  13. Kathy and all,

    When you join the list for this website, you get a copy of “Addiction and Codependency Simplified.”

    If you are already on the list and don’t have it, just email me an I’ll send you a copy. Use the contact page.

  14. Hi Dr. Neil…
    I finally got around to ordering Living with a Functioning Alcoholic…it’s time…no longer denying what I know to be true.
    I have never received, I don’t believe, the Alcoholic-Codependency Simplified.
    May I please have a copy? I don’t attend Alanon…..not working for me, as I’m still on the fence regarding the disease issue. I am more inclined
    to go with the disease by choice situation. I am finding that I’m becoming
    much more obsessed with my husband’s drinking than he ever has…..I count,
    I mark the cans, and then I log his alcohol consumption every day in a journal…. what’s up with that anyway. It’s rediculous!! Since my last comment here, things have not changed, he only seems to be falling apart more and more. I’m completely convinced that he is showing the beginning
    signs of A neropathy. It’s sad and I’m so angry at the same time. I
    look forward to the website to help me on this journey. Thanks again!

  15. Dear Sir,
    I am at present treating an alcoholic patient, who has now got rid of alcoholism with help of disulfiram or whatsoever, but he has developed frank alcoholic neuritis. In addition, he has little incordination, with tremors.
    I found him to be profoundly anemic, and treatment with injectable iron sorbital, and methylcobalamine has not given him much relief. Can there be any specific drug for this perticular neuropathy? He is 32 yrs male otherwise healthy.

  16. Dear Dr. Lele,

    What you are asking is a medical question. I would suggest you direct your question to medical colleagues who work with addiction recovery.

  17. I had an alcoholic abusive father. A mother in denial. Picked a woman abusive like my dad and made everyone think I was the abusive one. I drank and drank somemore, being depressed and the alcohol depressed me further. Finally screwed up through the drinking, had to attend counseling for alcohol and dom. violence which was the best thing that happened to me. Saw the co-dependent relationship and me being everything for everyone but me. Quit drinking (I have harmed my liver and my nerves but I take vitamins, eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and avoid any processed foods now), dumped the relationship, found a really nice healthy woman, love my kids, and it is a choice. A hard choice but a choice all the same. I had to have numerous things affect me all at once and work through counseling to make the steps necessary. I decided I didn’t want my life unhappy, being with a dishonest, hateful person, didn’t want to kill myself drinking, loved me and loved my kids. It didn’t hurt I started taking my banjo and attending gospel events. It wasn’t the religion so much, just meeting decent people who knew how to have a good time without alcohol. And now…I hope my past alcohol abuse doesn’t take me away from my kids and my wonderful life earlier than it should be. There is hope-but the focus has to be on fixing oneself-and caring for myself…everything builds from that place.

  18. Congratulations, Jim. I too wonder if my alcohol abuse of the past will catch up with me eventually. But so far so good. It’s been 35 years. never give up hope.

  19. My husband has been clean and sober for 27 years and was just diagnosed with Neuropathy (burning in his feet at night) due to his excessive drinking/drugging 27 years ago.

    We were both very surprised at this but I guess that the VERY excessive drinking and drugging he did has caught up with him.

    Any supplement suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thank You,

  20. My (new) husband injured himself on the job – had 2 vertebrae removed in his neck – replaced with cadaver bone and titanium plate last Jan. Ever since he continues to have severe chronic pain, pins and needles, and his pain continues to get worse. About 6 months ago he began stuttering and a twitch/tremor in his hand sometimes – usually when pain is severe and stress level is high. He is still employed – however can not perform his job and so while his employer is working with us to get diagnosis, treatment and determine disability–he basically spends all day, everyday at home watching tv, playing video games and reading. (due to his meds he is not allowed to drive)

    We married last April after long distance dating for 2 yrs. We have had sex once since our wedding – his reason is the medications and his pain. He was a big drinker – consumed a huge amount on the weekends only (from what I witnessed) but his job was extremely dangerous/high stress, and “all the guys” drank heavily on weekends. Now since the surgery – he literally drinks a minimum of 18 beers every other day. I’m convinced now that he’s an alcoholic. He even confessed (while drunk) that one of his ex-wife’s biggest complaints was his drinking – so I really can’t blame it on his job.

    For awhile I’ve felt that the drinking was for sure completely negating the medications. He sees his doctors and tells them the meds aren’t working and the pain is just getting worse… he’s now in the process of getting approved for a spinal stimulator implant to help relieve the pain. Reading about alcohol neuropathy – although my husband, did have an injury – I’m beginning to believe that his continued pain and the stuttering and hand tremor is due to his alcohol consumption.

    As I said, we are newly married (we’re in our late 40’s). There are other issues due to his baggage. We’re still getting used to communicating with each other, and with the drinking – he gets morbid, paranoid, argumentative and verbally nasty. Although, that seems to be the only time he wants to talk about “important” things – after his 12 beers in. He does not believe he has a drinking problem. I know you can’t convince an alcoholic they are an alcoholic, but I DO need to talk to my husband about what I believe, how it’s affecting me and our marriage–that I will not “pick up a 6 pack” for him on my way home from work. Sorry, I just needed to vent, to say what I’ve been thinking out loud.

  21. Hi: I just came across this is and it seems I may have finally found answers I have been looking for. Being an alcoholic for 30 years has been a hell off a path to take. The loneliness, anger and guilt are most difficult to live with. I have always blamed everyone else for my problems but never myself. I have been having nerve pain off and on for 6 years now and could never find the reason why. nor could doctors. Though I assure you I never revealed my drinking habits out of pride or embarrassment. Call it what you like. I have numbness, pins and needles and severe stabbing pains mostly in my feet and legs but also hands and arms as well as other parts of my body.

    Erectile problems are now new to me, just started a few months ago. I don’t have urination problem though so that is what stumps me here. I also have sporadic joint pain and stiffness and ankle pain. I get this severe pain from time to time in my right instep which makes it impossible to walk on that foot for a couple of days. I also get itching all over. I have quit before because of a fright and I assure you this has scared me again. By the Grace of God and friends I met in the past at AA I will one day at a time conquer or put to rest this awful disease which destroys not just me but the people I love the most, my children, wife and family. Thanks for this site.

  22. The sooner you start your abstenence and healing, the closer you are to the relief you so deserve. Nothing compares to the beauty and relaxation you experience with sobriety. God, what we have been missing all those years! Alcoholism is a disease of the mind whose symptoms begin to seep through the cracks one by one until the damage it causes to your body is no longer reversible, and barely treatable. Close that 30 year chapter. You had that experience that already. The outcome was not what you expected, and you just didn’t have the courage and strength to change old habits. Look towards the next 30 years without the horrible symptoms. Let your body detox from the chemicals, relax and really enjoy the rest of your life. Chances are you won’t be the only one enjoying being around you. You will be like a newborn child rediscovering a life you have missed out on.

  23. For Laurie:

    Vent away and say what you are thinking. Respect.

    I speak from the other side – I’m the alcoholic and my wife is putting up with it but I doubt that will go on for long, unless I give up completely. She is perfectly right. I can see it’s sh*t living with a heavy drinker – your comments about morbid, paranoid and argumentative sound so familiar. And you are dead right that the only time most folks with an alcohol problem will attempt to talk about the problem with their partners is when they are quite drunk and then of course it is virtually pointless (that’s certainly true in my case).

    I’ve got alcoholic neuropathy in my feet so have to drive an automatic car (unusual in the UK). I’m 52 and my GP tells me the condition might improve 5 years after I give up. I’m no Dr. Neill but has your husband had liver function blood tests? If he’s drinking 12-18 beers a day it will show up and maybe convince him there is at least a physical problem.

    Well done for not picking up a 6-pack of beer on the way home – my counselor calls that “collusion”, and like you, my wife will have nothing to do with that. Good luck.

  24. I’ve been in a relationship with an alcoholic/drug abuser for 6 years. He waited one full year to tell me about his addictions. He said he knew I wouldn’t want to date him if I knew, and he wasn’t willing to do anything about it. I stayed 5 more years because I was emotionally attached, which was what he was banking on. I never got to live any of my dreams with this man. We never married or even got a house together. He wouldn’t let go of his so that he could regress there and continue his drug and alcohol addiction without my nagging him.

    I’ve never been into drinking alcohol much but did drink more just knowing him. I finally decided there would be no year 7. It was scarier for me to live on my own laid off from my job than it was to be with an addict who never had control of his life or future. It’s a roller coaster ride.

    We are both in our mid 50’s. He is a professional manager. I am a former school teacher. This disease is in all walks of life. But it is a dead end for any person who gets involved with an alcoholic who wants no help.

    His friends all enable him so it’s not likely he will ever get the help he needs. So sad as he is a good man if it weren’t for his weakness for destructive substances. I’ve lost a daughter and a father from complications of alcohol abuse. Life is too short to hold yourself back while someone manipulates you.

  25. Is it possible for this problem to go away if one stops drinking or drinks once per month? Also, how long do the symptoms stay?

  26. I have seen the symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy virtually disappear in a week or two after stopping drinking completely. There are, however, wide individual differences.

  27. Hi

    I am 20 years old, not an alcoholic. But over the past three years have put my body through hell by drinking lots, smoking, and consuming drugs. Now whenever I drink, the next day I will always experience pins and needles through my arms. This has gone on for many months now. The more I drink the night before, the worse the pins and needles are, and the longer they last. Could this be alcoholic neuropathy? Or do you think it may be something else.

    Any suggestions are welcome


  28. I have enjoyed drinking for twenty years until two months ago when I started developing minor bodily sensations (less than an itch, and not pins and needles – sort of in between pins and needles and an itch). I have always felt well, drinking or not, but Googled myself into a Cirrhosis corner.

    I was wondering if any other drinkers out there all of the sudden started feeling a little crawl-y on their skin, and flaky scalp?

    thanks and great luck and long life to all!

  29. My STBX husband has alcoholic neuropathy and has severe gout (it got so severe because he refused to believe he needed to see a doctor). He was drinking 18-24 beers a night.

    I was supporting him through his physical issues and tried my best to be supportive, but when the verbal/emotional abuse started, that was the last straw. I do love him and always will, but since he has decided he doesn’t want help and is continuing on his downward spiral, I had to make the decision to save myself. In the end, it’s easier to leave him than to watch him kill himself.

    The saddest part is, he’s only 26. I can only hope that he hits rock bottom and tries to turn his life around while he still has a life, but whatever he does, I won’t be there to see it.

  30. Dr. Neill,

    Sir I believe me and my girl friend both are showing symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy. We’re only 20 years old, so we decided to quit drinking for awhile. My question for you was about how long after we quit will the numbness go away for good?

    Thank you sir.


  31. Hi. I am 39 and have alcoholic neuropathy in my feet. I am an alcoholic and in recovery and am seven months sober. It is such a blessing to not have to wake up every morning and start drinking. I went through two rehabs and they did not work. AA and Antibuse is what did it for me! The pain and tingling started in my mid calf and worked its way down to my feet and toes. My doctor recommended that I add a high potency B complex to my vitamin regimen. I have noticed a huge improvement and it’s only been a month! I have every hope that the alcoholic neuropathy will completely dissipate.

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  33. My husband has numb feet and fingers (now the side of his hands). He has been a functioning alcoholic for about 6 years. He does not have any pain at all. I know he also has vitamin deficiencies due to malabsorption issues for weight loss surgery. Is it possible to have peripheral neuropathy from alcohol and not be in any pain? His feet and fingers are just dead which makes walking and using his hands very difficult. Can this get better if he stops drinking? He is getting B12 shots now. He has cut back drinking but still doing a magnum of wine every day.

  34. My son woke up Sunday morning unable to move his hands. We went to ER, trying to find out why. My daughter went on line and what we feel is alcoholic neuropathy from a binge he went on Saturday with his friends.

    I try to talk with him, but he feels he is not an alcoholic because he only drinks after he gets home from work. I am so scared I am going to lose him. We, as in our family, are going to do all we can to make him understand what his future will be if he does not stop drinking. I am hoping your paper will help and will download it if its sent to me. I just need someone to talk too who understands what is going on. Thank you for letting me vent.

  35. Hi Dr Neill,

    First of all I’d like to say what a great article! This was great for me to discover and now am starting to realize that this may well be my problem after countless visits to the G.P. complaining of my discomfort… – so many of the factors laid out fit the bill to my health concerns in regards to irregular heartbeats, profuse sweating, confusion, numbness of the extremities and leg muscle cramping/wastage… – I have battled alcohol and addiction for over two decades (started at 13, now 34) and in the last 8 years have had four in-patient stays (4-6 weeks a time) in D&A rehabilitation combined with a revolving door of A.A meetings.

    A good rehab does give you the basic knowledge to attack the problem, but I found that they also seem to lean heavily towards the medication side, which for me is just a way of masking the problem and also blurs the lines so to speak… (I know to avoid seizures the first 4-5 days are critical with diazepam/valium, but this long-term anti-psychotic stuff like seroquel, zyprexa, largactil, clonidine, epilium, ect appear to just make the problem worse!)- I have to admit even though I’m not comfortable with it, (hence my continue failure to fight this battle).

    I’ve finally come to realize that A.A really is the only savior to such a deep seeded disease and to succeed you really have to work the program by attending as often as possible, preferably every day… – my gripe is the Al-Anon structure in relation to the negative spin it feeds to family members about ‘getting away’ or ‘running’ – I lost a wonderful ex-partner over this, which I know is partly my own stupid fault for continuing to drink/drug and unfortunately I now deal with a current partner who is an alcoholic too so I’ve seen both sides but my point is the fact that it is a ‘disease’ – we who suffer don’t like it, know it’s wrong but find it really hard to control it. If I had a partner or child with a diagnosed mental illness for instance I would try my best to always support, help and love them, I certainly wouldn’t be going to a support group that told me to just leave them!

    If we’re in a war we don’t leave our wounded mates behind, we carry them home with us… – If there’s domestic violence involved or total emotional/financial carnage then yes I totally agree, run for your life cause nobody deserves that, but seriously a lot of us are still highly functioning decent people who can’t help the fact we are quietly destroying ourselves… the saddest fact is until your actually an alcoholic who has walked a mile in those shoes it’s impossible to understand.

    Anyways, anybody out there suffering I highly recommend Alcoholics Anonymous, – if anything is going to save your life from this terrible curse this wonderful non-profit organization of recovering like-minded people will be your saving grace. Google it, there’s daily meetings all over the world… – one day at a time, just keep coming back!.. God Bless you all…

  36. I have been diagnosing myself with everything online. How could I explain how a 28 year old female could be having memory loss, confusion, vertigo, numbness, tingling, and a frightening amount of bruises? The docs never knew, must be anxiety and migraine. Lately my huge swelling feet and ankles, almost loss of consciousness, pain shooting through my arms and hands only made them think I was loosing it. Finally, I have been getting multiple episodes of the claw hand. It is fist tight and becoming increasingly more painful. My whole day is spend trying to prevent another snap shut now. Well like I knew in the back of my head all along…. I drink far far far too much. And it’s letting me know like I am twice my age.

  37. Hello there, Dr. Neill , my name is, Andrew. I am 24 from Glasgow, Scotland and I am an alcoholic, 16 months into recovery. I Have had a constant headache/migraine and chest and arm pains for 6 years and the docs fear it could be permanent polyneuropathy. The headache makes it so hard to do anything that it is debilitating and seems to be getting worse. Please email me back if u can as I’m desperate to cure/ease the pain . I have been offered jobs and just can’t take them . I’m lucky to be alive with what happened to me but I am not having a life with this extreme pain every second of the day. Thanks

  38. Dear Dr. Neill,

    I have been searching and searching for answers. I am 57 and my husband is almost 60. We have been married for 5 years.

    I have been searching for answers as to the progression of body disease from chronic alcoholism and have only been able to find being fatigued, weight loss, muscle atrophy, impotence, etc. I am concerned for my husband, but also for myself and what I am facing.

    Do you have information which might point toward the more subtle signs of alcohol damage? I have tried to talk with my husband about his diarrhea and tingling and numbness in his hands and feet. The belching and heartburn could indicate issues his body is having from his drinking, and of course, something else is the cause.

    Is there data that I could present to him that could support my concern that these symptoms are alcohol related?

    Some say to leave my “functioning” alcoholic, but unfortunately I put myself in a poor place by marrying the man. I Once owned my own home and held a decent paying job. Now I live in isolation, in a state that is not my home and totally dependent on what he provides (home, food, life insurance, etc.)

    I have been applying for work, but unfortunately there hasn’t been a single reply. It is tough for young college educated people to find jobs these days, really tough for me.

    If the info doesn’t help him to come out of denial, it could help me to know what I am facing. I hope you can help me.

    Thus far, his blood tests are that he is on the verge of diabetes, although his AST/ALT levels are in normal range….the ratio is ALT22 AST36. and his iron serum is at 188. His MCV is 98 and MCH 33.3.

    He thinks his tests show that he is healthy. I am fearful…I love this man, but I also have to look out for myself

  39. I do not drink that often and when I do, I do consume more than I should. After I wake up in the morning, my hand and feet and calves are numb and I hands clench my hands together all day and it hurts. I was just wondering, is this a neurological problem? I have diabetes and alcoholism in my family and it is hard for me not to drink once in a while, because I just want to.

  40. Dr., I was drinking around 10 beers a night for about a year. One day I woke up and decided to quit drinking. I have been sober 3 months but I have been experiencing heel cramps and tingling in my legs and arms/ hands!! Please help! Do I need to see a doctor

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    You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic that has been written about for
    ages. Great stuff, just excellent!

  42. Desperate for Help… My boyfriend, 35, was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, is a recovering alcoholic (clean for four years) and after recovery his new obsession (vice) was working out in the gym, in addition to riding 12-15 miles per day, and eating next to perfection (all fresh fruits veggies, lean proteins, complex carbs), only stimulant was coffee. In July he had a knee injury playing basket ball, didn’t give it enough time to heal before going back to the gym, while doing an exercise he claims he felt a shooting nerve pain up his spine.. a couple days after that he claims he started feeling shooting nerve pain through his hands and arms. He became very worried and concerned, he stopped eating and sleeping which led to sleep deprivation and malnourishment. A week after the initial injury I took him to the ER after he could NOT go to sleep, was no longer making sense when he spoke (lost cognizance), paranoid (accused me of knowing he was going to die), complained of constant tingling, nerve pain, numbness, seeming seizures, heart rate sky rocketing as well as blood pressure plummeting upon standing up. He was admitted to the hospital… all tests showed clear… this included MRI of head and neck, EEG, EKG, Spinal tap, copper test, full blood tests, urine tests (24-hour), Huntington’s, was then diagnosed as psychotic which was later ruled out along with bipolar and schizophrenia. The last two months he’s been home he’s been back to the ER seven times, started severely slurring and stuttering, claims hearing his own voice (when not speaking) a couple of times, weakness in legs to the point of stumbling constantly, afraid of doing any physical activity what so ever out of fear he’s making himself worse, afraid of sleeping only out of fear he is going to stop breathing and die each night. Every day he is fully consumed and fixated on these tingles, shakes, nerve pains and is obsessed with the thought that something is wrong with his spinal cord. He doesn’t want to go out in public anymore. He’s been put on several meds such as: anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and the only thing that worked for a very short time was ativan, which they ended up taking him off because they said it may be addictive since he was an alcoholic. If anyone has any idea of what I may look into PLEASE I beg your help and words of advice. Just to note, he was ruled out by his neurologist for the main neurological diseases and seizures were ruled out as well. We are out of answers and he is suffering and declining every day. Do any rare diseases or disorders come into anyone’s mind??

  43. A great article indeed.

    Have had a full fledged career spanning over 40 years. Retired with pension that takes care of finances as I am no more working.

    We have been married for 31 years. Wife is a healthy person, non drinker and a full time house wife. We are leading a comfortable life. Children have flown away from the nest and are doing well for themselves and leading happy lives. In nut shell, I can proudly say that I have been a wonderful husband and father, supported all of them throughout and have an excellent social and well off life with no financial worries whatsoever.

    I am a nearly 60 old Asian male, who has been drinking for closer to 30 years now, i.e. drinking 180 ml of whiskey almost every night.

    I have high Blood Pressure, am diabetic for last 9 years, have recently suffered from a seizure and as a result fell which lead to a small brain hemorrhage( detected after MRI). I have been put on Zenoxa 150 and Duzela 20 mg recently.

    I have absolutely no problem with not drinking, or leaving it, as there are no with drawl symptoms. Even if I do not drink for a month. The problem however, is that I do not want to stop drinking even when my body systems tell me not to. I think I am in a denial faze, otherwise there are all the indications of a alcoholic, I suppose.

    All throughout, my drinking has not effected my work, however my wife and children have not been too happy with my drinking as it had led to some slight behavioral problems on my part on some occasions. I have been drinking mostly alone at home, with occasional social drinking.

    I want to leave drinking or at least leave regular drinking except on social occasion. All advice is invited and welcome.

    Wishing you all a healthy drinking life ahead and God bless!

  44. Hello there, my dad’s an alcoholic. When he drinks, he all of a sudden goes stiff and his hands and fingers seem to go stiff and all bent. His face and feet kind of do the same. I can only describe this as his hands go in like an odd sort of claw effect. Hid speech goes slurred and funny. This happens for about 5 minutes at a time and he has episodes of doing this all night/day whenever he drinks. Can any one give me advise please?

  45. Hello, my name is Reta and I have been sober for 3 years now. My concern now is that I now have a stutter when I talk and when I’m holding a glass or even just brushing my daughters hair my right hand will shake non stop, so much so that other people notice it. I’m just wondering if this is linked to my old drinking habits or from me just stopping cold turkey with the drinking. In desperate need of answers

    Thank you

  46. Hi, I’m in my mid thirties, from the UK avg a recovering alcoholic. I have been sober nearly five years (AA) and have just been diagnosed with severe nerve damage (PN) mostly likely caused by my alcoholism. I wanted to say thank you for a great article. I’m still trying to understand the ins and outs of this condition and the article and comments have helped me immensely. I have nerve pain in both legs, feet and my back. Sharp shooting pain, tingling, burning, feeling like I’m getting stabbed etc. Recently though, I am having problems with clumsiness and short term memory loss. It’s a bit of a worry, to be honest. I’m waiting for an appointment to increase my medication and try out alternative therapies and have CBT.

  47. Hi Dr. Neill ,
    Your Article is very informative. Alcoholic neuropathy is a very dangerous disease which damage to the nervous system. Alcoholic neuropathy can affect the brain as well as nerves situated anywhere in the body. It also has effects on feet, hands, muscles, gastrointestinal system, and reproductive system.

  48. Hi, I am waiting forever for genetic test results from my neurologist. I was a heavy drinker, for many years, and now drink in moderation only. I am showing all the signs of peripheral neuropathy and I’m very anxious to find out if that’s what I have. I estimate that I drank 45,ooo units over 30 years. Would that kind of consumption be a strong indication of neuropathy, please?

    Many thanks

  49. Hi,

    I have been sober for 10 years, well will be on 12/19/2015. I stopped drinking as I just had enough of it. I was a very heavy drinker. Drinking a 5th of whiskey or vodka daily. I had been in rehab 3 times, but that never seemed to work. About 6 weeks ago, I noticed tingling in my toes on both feet, then numbness set in about a week later. I endured that for about 2 weeks, as I thought it was from not having the proper shoes when I started my new workout at the gym I joined. Shoes didn’t help and it started to travel up my legs and now it is in my fingers and hands. I am scheduled for a EMG test next week. One other thing to add, I usually take a dosage of NyQuil 30 minutes prior to my bedtime. I don’t like taking pills and the NyQuil aided me greatly in falling asleep. But to my point, can I be suffering from Alcoholic Neuropathy? I have been researching all forms of Neuropathy and there are some doctors who believe it can show up even after you have abstained from drinking 5-10 years later. Mentally I am very healthy. As I said, this showed up out of no where. I’m not a heavy meat eater in any way, I usually have it 2-3 times a month and maybe 25% of that is beef. I was also reading that my body could have never recovered from the Thiamine deficiency. I was just curious if Dr. Neill had any opinion on this? I have put myself on a Super B Complex Vitamin in the last 2 days. Are there any other supplements I should be taking? I heard Vitamin E could also help these symptoms. I started eating a banana a day to help with the cramps I get in the middle of the night, they are horrible. Even though it only has happened once and not returned for 48 hours, my calf’s are still very sore. Any additional advise would be great appreciated.

    Thank you in advance!

  50. Alcoholic polyneuropathy is a neurological disorder in which multiple peripheral nerves throughout the body malfunction simultaneously. It is defined by axonal degeneration in neurons of both the sensory and motor systems and initially occurs at the distal ends of the longest axons in the body. This nerve damage causes an individual to experience pain and motor weakness, first in the feet and hands and then progressing centrally. Alcoholic polyneuropathy is caused primarily by chronic alcoholism. Alcoholic polyneuropathy usually has a gradual onset over months or even years although axonal degeneration often begins before an individual experiences any symptoms. An early warning sign (prodrome) of the possibility of developing alcoholic polyneuropathy, especially in a chronic alcoholic, would be weight loss because this usually signifies a nutritional deficiency that can lead to the development of the disease.

    The disease typically involves sensory and motor loss, as well as painful physical perceptions (paresthesias), though all sensory modalities may be involved. Symptoms that affect the sensory and motor systems seem to develop symmetrically. For example, if the right foot is affected, the left foot is affected simultaneously or soon becomes affected. In most cases, the legs are affected first, followed by the arms. The hands usually become involved when the symptoms reach above the ankle. This is called a stocking-and-glove pattern of sensory disturbances.

    Polyneuropathy spans a large range of severity. Some cases are seemingly asymptomatic and may only be recognized on careful examination. The most severe cases may cause profound physical disability.

  51. I am not an alcoholic. That’s not denial talking. I have no compulsion to drink and no ill effects if I do not drink. However, for the past 5+ years (since my wife died), I have (actually, had, I stopped a couple of weeks ago) been drinking vodka every evening to help me sleep. I was going through a 1.75 liter jug of vodka and a fifth of triple sec per week. About a year ago (I think) I started to experience tingling and numbness in both feet, and over time began to experience severe, relentless, burning pain, in my feet and a feeling of pain in my ankles as though being squeezed in a vise. At times I also had pain in my legs and hips which may not be related. I’m almost 64 years old and some pain is to be expected.

    Ironically, my wife had severe peripheral Neuropathy in both hands and feet, caused by diabetes (Her doctor missed diagnosing her for years and the damage was done before she was even diagnosed and treatment began.) Her death was directly related to her diabetes. She contracted Narcotizing Fascistic in her abdomen and after undergoing Debridement for a month she gave up and demanded palliative care only and passed away 3 days later).

    She left behind a nearly full prescription of 60 mg extended release morphine, which I held onto. After suffering myself for months, I hesitantly gave one a try. It made me sick to my stomach, but it helped tremendously with the pain. By experimentation of breaking off pieces (Yeah, I know, you aren’t supposed to break extended relief pills.), I found a suitable dose that didn’t make me feel sick and stretched out that (almost) month prescription to several months. Now, I am out and find no relief with Tylenol, Aleve or ibuprofen. I am, finally, ready to go see a doctor even though they terrify me and I have little faith in the medical profession, especially after watching what my wife endured. (A few years before she died, she went to her doctor and described pain that she told him was similar to the pain she had when her gall bladder ruptured years earlier (1998). His response was to tell her little stories about his patients with indigestion. Ten months later, the nurse practitioner determined she had stones in the pancreatic duct, and they were finally removed but, by then, she was subject to chronic Pancreatitis.)

    I highly doubt that a doctor will prescribe morphine for me, even though I KNOW it works, because they seem more afraid for their license than alleviating patient pain. (My wife was afraid to change doctors for fear of losing pain medication). I have read articles that maintain that marijuana is effective at relieving pain of Neuropathy. What are your thoughts on that?

    I’m sorry for the long post (I needed to vent, I guess. Please don’t take my comments on the medical profession personally).I’d appreciate any input you can provide me, Dr. Neill.

  52. Doctor, can you tell me…. does the problem get worse when drunk? My husband of 32 years has always been a heavy drinker. A minimum of 12 a night but he NEVER misses work or is late. He is not mean or violent. He never complains.

    Here in the last three weeks I have noticed that when drunk after 11 he drags his left leg and his left hand seems drawn somewhat. He doesn’t show these when sober. He tells me something is wrong but he can’t explain what he is feeling. Does the neuropathy show more when the person is drunk and gradually worsen until it doesn’t go away?

  53. Hello Doctor – I’ve been an alcoholic most of my adult life, five years sober thru A.A. and then back out for a few years reaching rock bottom and going into rehab. It was wonderful! Back on it four years later and still going. I have a great job, but I’m going to ruin it if I keep this up. I’m a 60 year old woman trying to hide it from everyone. I’ve gained weight, my eyes are glassy, and I sweat constantly. I’ve had an increase of gas, and have been leaking bloody stool. I’m freaking out, but too guilty and ashamed to reach out. I just had some blood work taken today to follow up on a medication change. I’m wondering if my doctor will call me out. I read earlier in the comments that alcohol seems to be the new suicide. I agree.

  54. Doctor,

    My 24-year-old step son is convinced that he has Alcoholic Neuropathy.

    He did quite a bit of binge drinking for a little over a year two-three years ago. In the last 18 months, he has been experiencing numbness in his abdomen which then migrated around his left side and into his back. He has not been drinking during this time. He also developed a extreme lack of hunger and has since lost a good bit of weight.

    He did a good bit of research online and this is what he came up with.

    He did get an Upper GI Endoscopy and results were clear, however he we diagnosed with IBS. He also received a MRI on his nerves and nothing negative showed up. He has all of the standard blood tests and no unusual evidence showed up.

    Due to an extreme amount of stress over this issue, he lost a lot of weight and went into manic/panicked state. He was checked into the psyche ward of Fairfax Hospital for a week and now seems a quite a bit better as he is on anti-depressants and anxiety medicine. He is also a habitual marijuana user.

    Since he returned from the hospital, he returned to marijuana and still believes that his “injury” or sensation that he gets in his abdomen is not IBS and is convinced that he has Alcoholic Neuropathy and that it will never get better.

    We are sending him to get tested for as much as possible to discount this diagnosis.

    What do you think? Have you ever come across anything like this?

  55. I am dying I think. I have all the symptoms of advanced liver disease. A new one is numbness in my hands and feet when I have them up and I am not moving. Is this a cardiovascular issue? I think it is associated with heavy drinking.

  56. Ok question. I quit drinking in 2012 and the neuropathy started in ’15. I’ve had a glass of wine here and there but nothing like the scale previous. Can those symptoms happen years after quitting?

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