Alcoholic Neuropathy – What are Its Causes, Symptoms and Treatments?

November 12, 2012

Alcoholic Neuropathy - What are Its Causes, Symptoms and Treatments?

Alcoholic neuropathy refers to the type of nerve damage that comes about from drinking too much alcohol.

The Causes

A lot of debate is still ongoing regarding the causes of alcoholic neuropathy. However, they seem to include both poor nutrition due to alcoholism and direct nerve poisoning by the alcohol. In extreme cases, the nerves in charge of regulating the functions of the inner body might be involved, as well. Up to 50% of heavy long-term alcohol users end up suffering from alcoholic neuropathy.

Here are some of the risks for this condition:

- Evident alcoholism for a decade or more.

- Heavy alcohol use in the long term. The Symptoms

- Unusual sensations

– Numbness in the legs and the arms

- Pain in the legs and the arms

- Muscle weakness, aches or cramps

- Heat intolerance, mostly after exercising

– Male impotence

- Trouble urinating and incontinence

- Constipation

- Vomiting, nausea

- Diarrhea

Other symptoms that might accompany this disease:

- Trouble swallowing – Loss of muscle feeling or function

- Speech impairment – Muscle atrophy, spasms or contractions

- Movement disorders

The Treatment

Once an alcohol problem is evident, the following treatment goals should be in put in place:

- Control the symptoms

- Prevent any injuries

- Maximize the ability to work independently

It would be vital to supplement any diet with the right kinds of vitamins, as well, including folic acid and thiamine.

Orthopedic tools, like splints, and physical therapy might be necessary to maintain limb positions and maximize muscle functions, as well. Some patients might need to take medications, too, in order to treat any uncomfortable sensations or pain. Their responses to their medications will vary from one person to the next, though. Either way, however, patients would be advised not to consume too much medication to prevent unwanted side effects, like drug dependence.

Common medications for those with alcoholic neuropathy might include anticonvulsant medications and tricyclic antidepressants to help with stabbing pains; and over-the-counter analgesics, like aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with pain, in general. Some people find it helpful to simply re-position their bed frames to alleviate pain, while others might need extra treatment for additional blood pressure conditions, trouble urinating or slow gastrointestinal movements. Dizziness or light-headedness after standing up, on the other hand, might require a sample of various treatments before you can find one that will actually successfully reduce your symptoms.

Here are some of the treatments that might help:

- Eating more salt

- Elevating the head while sleeping

- Using medications like fludrocortisone

- Putting on elastic stockings

Bladder functions can usually be treated with:

- Intermittent catheterization

- Medications like bethanechol

- Manual urine expression

Constipation, diarrhea, impotence, and other symptoms should only be treated as needed, though, since they usually respond pretty badly to treatments in people who have alcoholic neuropathy.

Category: Articles