Alcoholic Neuropathy: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

“A neuropathic ankle fracture is [at a] much higher risk for complications, and so it should be treated differently. If a patient knows they have neuropathy, that should be brought up before surgery,” says Highlander. Research into alternative therapies for neuropathic symptoms has shown some noteworthy results. “The character and quality of neuropathic pain tends to be pain that’s burning or electric in character,” says Dr. Williams.

Clinical history

alcohol neuropathy

Neuropathy can affect nerves that provide feeling (sensory neuropathy) or cause movement (motor neuropathy). It can also affect both, in which case it is called a sensorimotor neuropathy. Learn how MS can lead to bladder dysfunction, increasing UTI risks, and explore prevention and treatment options for managing urinary symptoms effectively… Determining which racial and ethnic groups experience neuropathy the most may be complicated by the type of neuropathy, as well as the different ways that people communicate their pain to others, including their healthcare providers. Blood Tests These can be ordered to check for elevated blood sugar (as seen in type 2 diabetes), toxins, vitamin deficiencies, hereditary disorders, and evidence of an abnormal immune response.

  • Based on these five clinical phenotypes, we suggest differential diagnostic pathways in order to establish the underlying cause.
  • For those with alcoholic neuropathy, rehabilitation also focuses on managing and treating the nerve damage, incorporating physical therapy, nutritional counseling, and strategies to prevent further nerve injury.
  • Poor absorption and low intake of these vitamins have clinical features of dermatitis, neuropathy, and anorexia.

Natural history

alcohol neuropathy

Referral to a behavioral health addiction facility may be required to treat alcohol addiction. Impotence, diarrhea, constipation, or other symptoms are treated when necessary. These symptoms often respond poorly to treatment in people with alcoholic neuropathy. A person should speak with a doctor if they are experiencing any symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy or if they are concerned about their alcohol use.

  • Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about symptoms.
  • Early alcoholic neuropathy, usually presenting as sensory symptoms in the extremities, is reversible if the patient stops drinking and establishes proper nutrition.
  • People who drink heavily on a regular basis are at risk of developing this condition.
  • People should note that while “alcoholic neuropathy” is the current medical term, some healthcare professionals are beginning to use the term “alcohol-related neuropathy” to decrease stigma surrounding the condition.
  • Alcohol causes neuropathy via multifactorial processes, many of which are still under investigation.

Involvement of the sympatho-adrenal and hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in alcoholic peripheral neuropathy

Women, continuous as opposed to episodic drinkers, and people with a family history of the disorder appear to be more vulnerable to alcoholic neuropathy and more severe presentations. Many theories have been raised as to the cause of alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy (ALN). While nutritional deficiencies can contribute to progression of ALN, these are not the primary cause leading to neuropathy.

alcohol neuropathy

A systematic, computer-based search was conducted using the PubMed database. 87 articles were included in this review, 29 case–control studies, 52 prospective/retrospective cohort studies and 2 randomised control trials, 1 cross sectional study, and 3 population-based studies. The prevalence of peripheral neuropathy amongst chronic alcohol abusers is 46.3% (CI 35.7– 57.3%) when confirmed via nerve conduction studies. Alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy generally presents as a progressive, predominantly sensory axonal length-dependent neuropathy. The most important risk factor for alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy is the total lifetime dose of ethanol, although other risk factors have been identified including genetic, male gender, and type of alcohol consumed. Alcoholic polyneuropathy is a neurological disorder in which peripheral nerves throughout the body malfunction simultaneously.

alcohol neuropathy

  • Alcohol use leaves no one immune to nerve damage and other health-related issues.
  • While nutritional deficiencies can contribute to progression of ALN, these are not the primary cause leading to neuropathy.
  • In people with diabetic neuropathy, regular exercise can also help lower high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).
  • Another prominent effect of alcoholic neuropathy involves painful and uncomfortable sensations.

Diagnostic evaluation for suspected SFN often involves a multitude of tests. Genetic testing should be considered when clinical history or examination suggests a hereditary origin of the peripheral neuropathy (i.e., clinical pattern #2, #4, occasionally #5). Positive family history is the most apparent hint but may be absent in the case of de novo mutations, adopted individuals, or small families [17]. Symptoms that develop over decades, prominent wasting, and skeletal or foot deformities are clinical clues to a hereditary neuropathy (clinical pattern #2). However, there are many examples of late-onset hereditary neuropathy, e.g., axonal CMT or ATTRv amyloidosis. However, they are only applicable for specific neuropathic conditions or when a specific diagnosis is already suspected on clinical grounds.

  • The data, however, is conflicting as to the role which malnutrition plays.
  • Alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy (ALN) can occur when someone drinks a lot of alcohol, which is often the case in individuals suffering from alcohol use disorder and high alcohol use.
  • They work to send signals throughout the central nervous system and the rest of the body.
  • Alcoholic neuropathy is one of the most common adverse effects of chronic alcohol consumption.
  • To assess the bias in these we applied the Jadad score which takes into consideration quality of randomisation and blinding as well as reporting of withdrawals to assess bias in RCTs [9].
  • Reduced recruitment pattern of motor units was a frequently reported outcome [16, 28, 67, 70].

PKC and protein kinase A (PKA) are both known to be important in nociceptor function [57–59]. There are several studies suggesting the involvement of protein kinases in alcoholic neuropathy. alcohol neuropathy Dina et al. [16] maintained rats on a diet to simulate chronic alcohol consumption in humans and found mechanical hyperalgesia by the fourth week which was maximal at 10 weeks.

Getting help for alcohol use disorder

As a result, it is usually necessary to get medical help to manage alcohol use disorder. Since nutritional deficiencies are partly to blame for alcoholic neuropathy. To combat these deficiencies, supplementation with vitamin B12, folate, vitamin E, and thiamine may be recommended.

Can You Prevent Multiple Sclerosis?

Drinking a lot of alcohol over a long period of time causes nerve damage that can lead to the onset of alcoholic neuropathy. Heavy and chronic drinking is also often tied to nutritional deficiencies. Someone who struggles with alcoholism may replace meals with alcohol, take in a lot of empty calories, and not maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

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