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The Permanent Pain of Alcoholic Neuropathy

Heavy drinking over time can cause damage to the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. This can lead to a range of disabling symptoms, such as pain, numbness, tingling, loss of balance and coordination, muscle weakness, and problems with digestion. Vitamin E is used to refer to a group of fat-soluble compounds that include both tocopherols and tocotrienols.

  • The data indicates that there is both small and large fibre loss in alcohol-related neuropathy, but that small fibre loss is generally predominant [3, 51, 53, 56, 59, 63, 86].
  • A commitment to living a healthy lifestyle can bring significant improvement, and in some cases, a full recovery.
  • Treatment may involve nutritional supplementation, pain management, and abstaining from alcohol.
  • She has over a decade of direct patient care experience working as a registered nurse specializing in neurotrauma, stroke, and the emergency room.
  • For instance, painkillers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications can be instrumental in terms of pain management, although these aren’t considered scientifically approved treatments.

The way alcohol neuropathy is being managed presently is not satisfactory. However, there is poor compliance on the part of patients, resulting in the progression of the condition and ultimately, poor quality of life. Residual neuropathy occurs even in patients who have practiced abstinence. While one may find relief from conventional treatment, the addictive nature or side effects of some medications makes it undesirable to use it for the long term. These treatments, in some cases, only suppress the symptoms but do not treat the underlying pathology.

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Sadly, there are no medical treatments for counteracting muscle waste, the loss of sensation, or issues with balance; however, many see improvements on all three fronts by getting sober. If you’re concerned that you might have developed alcoholic neuropathy, your first port of call should be to contact a doctor and book yourself in for a check-up ASAP. For those who do stay sober, while recovery may not be 100% in most cases, the difference can be between constant pain and agony up to slightly bothersome and having bad days. Peripheral nerves are slow to heal for the same reason they are the first to fail. A doctor may also want to test the functioning of the kidneys, liver, and thyroid. In addition, they may order blood tests to check for vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.

  • Thus, treatment with TCAs may provide symptomatic relief in patients with alcoholic neuropathy.
  • In one clinical study, aimed at studying distinct clinicopathologic features of alcoholic neuropathy, 64 patients were assessed.
  • Alcoholism may additionally end in loss of appetency, alcoholic redness, and puking, that decrease food intake.

Alcohol also alters the function of the stomach, liver, and kidneys in ways that prevent the body from properly detoxifying waste material, which then builds up and harms many regions of the body, including the nerves. A person can improve their outlook by significantly reducing or cutting off their alcohol intake and ensuring that they are receiving the right balance of nutrients. Thus, there is a need to screen acetyl-L-carnitine in both preclinical and clinical models of alcoholic neuropathy. Physical exam findings include diminished sensation to vibration, pain, dysfunctional thermo-proprioception, weakness in the ankle and toes with flexion and extension, atrophy of foot muscles, gait ataxia, and diminished deep tendon reflexes. The only way to prevent alcoholic neuropathy is not to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.


The sural nerve was the most commonly reported nerve [2, 3, 5, 11, 27, 37,38,39, 51, 53, 59, 63, 68]. Motor function of the tibial nerve was the next common [3, 11, 51, 54, 59, 63]. Finally, one study examined the strength-duration time constant (SDTC) and rheobase in median nerves of those with alcoholic peripheral neuropathy [69].

Further, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are prescribed to treat alcohol-induced neuropathic pain via exerting antinociceptive properties by increasing serotonergic and noradrenergic neurotransmissions [71]. In an animal model, Kaur et al. (2017) showed that curcumin and sildenafil administrated alone or in combination represent a therapeutic advantage in alcohol-induced neuropathic pain [176]. Primarily, it was assumed that the progression of ALN symptoms is due to malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency (mainly B1 hypovitaminosis) [82, 83]. Indeed, these factors contribute to the progression of ALN symptoms; however, they do not constitute direct factors that manifest in ALN development [84].

Alcohol-Induced Neuropathy in Chronic Alcoholism: Causes, Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Deficiency of vitamins other than thiamine may also contribute to clinical features of alcoholic neuropathy. Chronic alcoholism can alter the intake, absorption and utilization of various nutrients (nicotinic acid, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate or vitamin E). Thus, these vitamin deficiencies were not considered to be major causal factors of neuropathy [26].

alcohol neuropathy

Women are more likely to develop alcohol polyneuropathy and suffer from a more rapid onset and greater severity. Thiamine, folate, niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, and vitamin E are all needed for proper nerve function. Drinking too much can alter levels of these nutrients and affect the spread of alcoholic neuropathy.

In severe cases of alcohol addiction, when a liver transplant is necessary, there have been some instances of reduced symptoms, post-op, but not even a transplant can abate the symptoms of late-stage alcoholic neuropathy. Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCV) will then be necessary to assess, not the cause of the prospective neuropathy, but the severity of the nerve damage. The first way that alcoholic neuropathy manifests itself is typically in dulled sensation and feeling in the hands and feet.

alcohol neuropathy

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