Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholic Neuropathy

Alcoholic neuropathy is, in short, nerve damage caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. It is not known exactly how alcohol consumption leads to neuropathy, but it is believed to involve a combination of elements, including the direct poisoning of the nerves by the alcohol and the malnutrition associated with alcoholism. Alcoholic neuropathy typically affects the peripheral nerves first. The peripheral nerves are those that transmit sensation signals from various parts of the body to the brain. In more severe cases, alcoholic neuropathy may potentially spread to the autonomic nerves, or the nerves responsible for internal bodily functions.

Common signs and symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy may include:

  • Numbness in the legs or arms

  • Tingling or a “pins and needles” sensation in the limbs

  • Pain in the arms or legs

  • Muscle weakness

  • Aches and pain in the muscles

  • Intolerance to heat, particularly following physical exertion

  • Impotence in men

  • Urinary problems

    • Incontinence  or leaking urine

    • Difficulty initiating urination

    • Feeling unable to thoroughly empty the bladder

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Dizziness or light-headedness

Additional, less common but still recognized symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Impaired speech

  • Loss of muscle function or of feeling

  • Muscle spasms

  • Atrophied muscles

  • Movement disorders

Alcoholic neuropathy is directly linked to excessive alcohol consumption, so the most important form of prevention is to consume alcohol in moderation. The nerve damage caused by alcoholic neuropathy is usually permanent, so an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of treatment. If you experience symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy, see your doctor. Your doctor can help you determine the best course of action for treating neuropathy and keeping symptoms at bay.


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