One of the most common and un-diagnosed conditions associated with excessive long-term use of alcohol is alcoholic neuropathy. This condition damages peripheral nerves that send signals between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body. The mechanism behind alcoholic neuropathy is not well understood, but it is known that alcoholic neuropathy progressively erodes the coating that protects the nerves and damages the microscopic projections, known as axons, which transmit signals from one nerve to another. The result of having this condition is a spectrum of uncomfortable and even debilitating symptoms such as burning pain, hyperalgesia and allodynia which can seriously diminish a person’s quality of life.
What Causes Alcoholic Neuropathy?
Research suggests that nutritional deficiency (especially thiamine deficiency) and/or the body’s decreased ability to flush toxins, or both, have been implicated in alcohol-induced neuropathic pain.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Alcoholic Neuropathy?
The symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy can cause pain and hypersensitivity or a decrease in sensation that may lead to further injury and lead to degenerative mobility issues. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking treatment early can reduce the risk of permanent disability. Some of these most common symptoms of alcohol nerve damage may include any of the following:
- Numbness, tingling or burning in the arms and legs
- Muscle atrophy, weakness and spasms in the arms and legs
- An overall loss of muscle function in the limbs
- Decreased sensation in the hands and feet that may result in physical injuries that may go unnoticed and usually untreated
- The lack of pain may also lead to a great risk for infection as a result of unnoticed wounds
- Incontinence, constipation or diarrhea, as well as difficulty urinating
- Sexual dysfunction and impotence
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Hypersensitivity and pain most commonly in the fingers and toes, as well as the hands and feet
How is Alcoholic Neuropathy Treated?
To this date, there is no single test to identify alcoholic neuropathy and diagnoses are reached through blood and nerve tests, along with a comprehensive medical history which includes screening to identify patients who are hazardous drinkers or have active alcohol use disorders. After diagnosis and examination, physicians generally prescribe various medications in an effort to manage or treat the symptoms. Physical therapy and exercise are also utilized to treat weak and atrophied muscles. In addition, when necessary, orthopedic gear, such as leg braces, are also used to help stabilize the limbs that have been compromised.
The alcoholic Neuropathy treatment goal is to halt further damage to the peripheral nerves restoring functioning through alcohol abstinence and a nutritionally balanced diet supplemented by all B vitamins. If the individual is struggling with alcohol dependence or alcoholism the first step is to address and treat the condition. For some individuals, alcohol detox and inpatient treatment program may be required. While there might be some improvement in symptoms once the individual is living an alcohol-free lifestyle, the nerve damage caused by the neuropathy is usually permanent, but in some cases when treated in time improvement has been made. If you have come across our blog post, chances are that you or someone you love is in need of alcohol treatment.
Since 2002 Florida Center for Recovery has offered a wide array of comprehensive treatment programs aiming to treat the whole person and not just the isolated disease of addiction. Offering a unique blend of traditional and holistic methods, we provide our patients with the opportunity to develop life skills, relapse prevention techniques, and a better understanding of alcohol abuse and its harmful effects. We believe that families play a vital role in the recovery process, and our recovery programs offer the educational sessions to help and equip families with the necessary tools to be the support that their loved one needs.
To explore addiction treatment for an alcohol problem at Florida Center for Recovery, please contact us at (800) 851-3291. We are accredited and certified by the Joint Commission, which sets the standard for delivery of safe and effective care of the highest quality and value for our clients.
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