Does Alcohol Make Neuropathy Worse?

Alcohol makes neuropathy worse

Here's something you may not know — too much alcohol can lead to or exacerbate neuropathy. Makes you reconsider that drink, doesn't it?

If you've ever wondered, "Does alcohol affect neuropathy?" the answer is yes. Learn more about the role that alcohol plays in neuropathy below and how you can protect yourself from the dangers of too much alcohol.

What is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy refers to damage or dysfunction of one or more nerves, typically resulting in numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and pain in the affected area. This condition can affect various parts of the body and is often progressive. Several types of neuropathy are classified based on the number of nerves affected, their function, and the underlying causes.

Types of Neuropathy

  1. Peripheral Neuropathy: This is the most common type of neuropathy, affecting the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Peripheral nerves relay signals between the body, the spinal cord, and the brain. Symptoms can include pain, numbness, and weakness in the hands and feet, often described as a glove-and-stocking distribution because the symptoms cover the extremities.
  2. Autonomic Neuropathy: This form impacts the autonomic nerves, which control bodily functions that occur without conscious effort, such as heart rate, digestion, and respiratory rate. Autonomic neuropathy can change blood pressure, heart rate, bowel and bladder function, and sexual response.
  3. Proximal Neuropathy (Diabetic Amyotrophy): Proximal neuropathy affects nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks, or legs. It's more common in older adults over 50 and those with diabetes. Symptoms include pain and weakness in the proximal muscles of the lower limbs, making it difficult to rise from a sitting position.
  4. Focal NeuropathyThis type involves the sudden weakness of one nerve or a group of nerves, causing muscle weakness or pain. It can affect any nerve in the body, leading to acute, often severe, symptoms that can affect the functionality of specific areas like the eyes (causing double vision) or facial muscles.
    Alcoholic neuropathy

Neuropathy and Alcohol

Alcoholic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by overindulging in alcoholic drinks. The damage to the peripheral nerves is primarily due to the toxic effects of alcohol on nerve tissue and the nutritional deficiencies that often occur in those with chronic alcoholism, particularly deficiencies in B vitamins like thiamine (B1), pyridoxine (B6), and cyanocobalamin (B12).  And when your nerves aren't getting nutrients, they start getting numbness from alcohol, and it's only a matter of time before they become damaged or even die.

No matter what type of neuropathy you have, your condition can be exacerbated by drinking too much. Alcohol can damage nerves and blood cells, which, in turn, can lead to neuropathy and make neuropathy symptoms worse.

Finally, alcohol may raise your blood sugar levels, further damaging your nerves and worsening your neuropathy.

Symptoms of Alcoholic Neuropathy

Alcoholic neuropathy is a condition resulting from chronic alcohol abuse, which can significantly impair both sensory and motor functions. This neuropathy can lead to symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe disability, impacting the quality of life but generally not considered life-threatening. Symptoms can be diverse, affecting multiple areas of the body:

Neuromuscular Symptoms in Arms and Legs:

  • Numbness: Lack of sensation that can occur in various body parts.
  • Paresthesia: Tingling, burning, or prickly sensations.
  • Muscle Dysfunction: Includes spasms, cramps, weakness, and atrophy (muscle mass loss).
  • Motor Impairments: Difficulty with coordination and movement control.

Autonomic Symptoms Affecting Urinary and Bowel Function:

  • Urinary Incontinence: Uncontrolled leakage of urine.
  • Bowel Issues: Constipation or diarrhea can occur, along with difficulty initiating urination and a persistent feeling of incomplete bladder emptying.

Additional Systemic Symptoms:

  • Sexual Dysfunction: This can include impotence and other issues affecting sexual health.
  • Neurological Impairments: Difficulty with speech articulation, swallowing difficulties, etc.
  • Heat Intolerance: Often exacerbated following physical activity.
  • Gastrointestinal and Vestibular Symptoms: Vomiting, nausea, dizziness, or lightheadedness episodes.

It is crucial to consult a healthcare professional if you experience any neuropathy symptoms. Early diagnosis and intervention significantly enhance the likelihood of recovery and management of the condition.

Can Alcoholic Neuropathy be Reversed?

If your neuropathy has been caused or exacerbated by alcohol, the best thing you can do is to stop drinking. While the damage caused by alcoholic neuropathy can be severe, certain aspects of the condition may be partially reversible or at least improvable, particularly if interventions are initiated early.

Steps to Manage and Potentially Reverse Alcoholic Neuropathy:

  1. Abstinence from Alcohol: Ceasing alcohol consumption is the most critical step in managing alcoholic neuropathy. Eliminating alcohol can halt further nerve damage and allow the body to begin the healing process. This step requires dedication and often support, as withdrawal and abstinence can be challenging.
  2. Nutritional Support: Alcohol misuse often leads to nutritional deficiencies, notably in B vitamins, which are crucial for nerve health. Your healthcare provider may recommend vitamin supplements to address these deficiencies. Common supplements include B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 (cyanocobalamin), which are essential for nerve repair and health.
  3. Pain Management and Medication: Over-the-counter or prescription medications may be prescribed to alleviate neuropathic pain. These can include pain relievers, anti-seizure medications, and topical treatments that help reduce discomfort.
  4. Therapeutic Interventions: Various therapies can support the recovery process. Physical therapy can help restore muscle strength and mobility, while massage and acupuncture may relieve pain and improve nerve function. These therapies can be tailored to individual needs to maximize recovery.
  5. Supportive Devices and Aides: To manage and mitigate symptoms, especially those affecting mobility, pain management aides such as orthotic devices, special footwear (like diabetic socks designed to reduce pressure and improve circulation), and safety gear can be beneficial.
  6. Professional Support for Alcohol Dependence: If stopping alcohol on your own seems difficult, it may be necessary to seek external help. Support groups, counseling, and therapy can provide the assistance needed to address alcohol dependence effectively.

Recovery from alcoholic neuropathy varies depending on the progression of nerve damage and how long the person has been consuming alcohol. While some symptoms may improve significantly with proper intervention and lifestyle adjustments, other effects might be more enduring. The key is early diagnosis and comprehensive management to maximize nerve recovery and improve quality of life.

FAQs

How much alcohol causes peripheral neuropathy?

No magic number or hard line is separating too much alcohol from a safe amount for consumption. Everyone interacts with alcohol differently. Some people may develop neuropathy quickly, while others can go for years of heavy drinking without any nerve damage caused by alcohol. However, studies have shown that some people, especially women, are more at risk for developing alcoholic neuropathy.

Why does alcohol cause neuropathy?

Alcohol can make it more difficult for your body to obtain the nutrients that help it to function. Thus, your nerves are less likely to receive the nutrients they need and can become damaged or even die.

Too much alcohol can also damage your organs, namely your kidney, liver, and stomach. When your organs can't function properly, toxins can build up in your body and further harm your nerves.

Does alcohol make peripheral neuropathy worse?

Yes, alcohol can exacerbate peripheral neuropathy. Your nerve cells can't sustain direct damage from too much alcohol. Too much alcohol can also lead to nutritional deficiencies that negatively impact neuropathy. For example, many alcoholics are deficient in B vitamins, which play an important role in nerve health and repair.

Can alcoholic neuropathy be reversed?

Most people will not be able to reverse the effects of neuropathy. Once damage occurs, it is often permanent. However, the sooner you begin treating your neuropathy, the better. If you catch alcoholic peripheral neuropathy early enough, you may be able to reverse it by giving up alcohol.

Can I drink alcohol if I have neuropathy?

You can, though it will likely make your neuropathy worse. We recommend limiting your alcohol intake to ensure you enjoy the highest quality of life possible.

Neuropathy pain, meet Viasox: The world's finest fancy diabetic socks

Getting the proper treatment is important regardless of the cause of your neuropathy. In addition to doctor-prescribed therapies, medications, or surgeries, you should invest time in helpful, noninvasive pain management treatment options. One popular example is diabetic socks and compression socks.

Neuropathy is particularly bad for the feet and legs, which is why our socks can be so beneficial. Viasox socks are specially designed to offer protection for your feet and are created with your safety and comfort in mind.

Shop our entire collection online today and discover fun diabetic socks in every color, pattern, and size you can imagine. Need help locating a product or completing an order? We'd be happy to assist!

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