What is Alcoholic Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is the medical term for nerve damage. In the case of alcoholic neuropathy the damage is caused by alcohol and it affects the peripheral nerves. Your peripheral nervous system is made up of a system of 43 pairs of nerves which serve your head, neck and body sending messages back and forth to your brain to provide feeling throughout the body and control a wide variety of actions and processes. Alcohol abuse reduces the levels of vitamins and minerals in your body which are needed for healthy nerve function.
What are the symptoms of Alcoholic Neuropathy?
The symptoms you experience may vary depending on whether the damage is caused to motor nerves (those which control movement), sensory nerves (sensations) or autonomic nerves (unconscious bodily functions), but can include:
- Tingling or “pins and needles” sensations
- Burning and pricking sensations
- Muscle cramps and pains
- Partial or complete loss of muscle control
- Urinary incontinence
- Male impotence
- Diarrhoea or constipation
What is the treatment for alcoholic neuropathy?
The most important treatment for alcoholic neuropathy is to stop drinking. Depending on your level of consumption, you may need to enrol in a managed withdrawal programme to help you achieve this.
Other treatment will vary depending on your particular symptoms but it will focus on helping you to manage life with those symptoms. This may include:
- Pain relief
- Orthopaedic appliances to aid mobilisation
- Safety equipment to prevent injuries
- Vitamin supplements
- Medication for people with problems urinating
Can alcoholic neuropathy be reversed?
The nerve damage caused by alcoholic neuropathy is usually permanent, but you can prevent it from getting any worse by stopping drinking. If you are unable to stop drinking it could lead to permanent disability and chronic pain.
If the condition has been caught early enough, avoiding alcohol and following s healthy diet can sometimes lead to a moderate or full recovery.