According to a 2015 study published in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 15 million individuals over the age of 18 have a problem with alcohol. Of those with an alcohol use disorder, 9.8 million are men and 5.3 million are women. In addition to cirrhosis of the liver and nutritional deficiencies, many of these individuals will likely also develop alcoholic neuropathy. For those who may not be familiar with alcoholic neuropathy, it is a severe condition that can be triggered by excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption. Further, alcoholic neuropathy is characterized by nerve damage that causes unusual sensations that can be felt in the limbs. More than that, the condition can result in a loss of certain bodily functions and may also impact mobility.
NEUROPATHY AND EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
According to some studies, long-term excessive alcohol consumption can cause malnutrition as well as nerve damage, two of the primary contributors of alcoholic neuropathy. Alcohol decreases the body’s natural ability to process, transport, and absorb valuable nutrients, which impedes its ability to function properly. It is also important to note that alcoholic neuropathy is quite common amongst heavy drinkers. According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, more than 65 percent of alcoholics have been officially diagnosed with alcoholic neuropathy. Those with alcoholic neuropathy are usually deficient in the following:
- Vitamin B6 and B12
- Vitamin E
It is also worth noting that these deficiencies not only lead to alcoholic neuropathy but also impacts your overall health.
SYMPTOMS OF ALCOHOLIC NEUROPATHY
Along with unusual sensations in your limbs, alcoholic neuropathy can also trigger the following symptoms:
- Loss of mobility
- Muscle atrophy
- Muscle weakness
- Numbing sensations
Also worth noting, alcoholic neuropathy is not only limited to the limbs as the condition can also affect the bowels and urinary systems as well. In these cases, individuals may also experience the following:
- Chronic constipation
- Urinary incontinence
- Urinary retention
Of course, the symptoms detailed in this article are not all-encompassing as there are a variety of symptoms associated with alcoholic neuropathy, and these symptoms can affect a variety of bodily functions.
HOW IS ALCOHOLIC NEUROPATHY DIAGNOSED?
If you drink heavily and are experiencing any of the symptoms detailed in this article, it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a physician as soon as possible. To confirm alcoholic neuropathy, your physician will perform one or more of the following tests:
Blood chemistry test – This particular test is used to assess an individual’s overall health, namely blood sugar levels and liver and kidney function.
Complete blood count (CBC) – This test is used to evaluate how well the immune system is functioning and how much oxygen is circulating throughout an individual’s body. It is also used to measure blood cell and platelet health as well.
Esophagogastroduodenoscopy – This test entails inserting a thin tube fitted with a camera down a patient’s throat to identify factors that may be contributing to nausea and vomiting, which are both commonly associated with alcoholic neuropathy.
Electromyography – This test entails inserting needles into specific areas of the patient’s skin and muscle tissue to measure electrical activity that may be indicative of alcoholic neuropathy.
Obviously, this list does not represent all of the testing involved in diagnosing alcoholic neuropathy as there are many others; however, these are the most common.
HOW IS ALCOHOLIC NEUROPATHY TREATED?
If you have made the decision to end your addiction to alcohol, it would be a good idea to seek treatment with a licensed alcohol rehab facility that offers nutritional support. The first step toward reversing early alcoholic neuropathy is improving your diet, which entails providing the body with the nutrients that it needs to function properly. While at these facilities, you will most likely be working with either a physician or a nutritionist who will recommend dietary changes that can help ease alcoholic neuropathy symptoms while also restoring your strength, both of which can make overcoming withdrawal symptoms and getting through detox a lot easier. Additional treatments may include
Supplementation – While going through rehab, your physician or nutritionist may encourage you to take vitamin E, B6, and B12 to help with alcoholic neuropathy symptoms.
Prescription medication – To help you cope with any pain resulting from alcoholic neuropathy, your physician may prescribe pain medication and anticonvulsant medication like cyclobenzaprine and gabapentin, for example.