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.