What Is Alcoholic Neuropathy? Am I at Risk for This Condition if I Drink?

One of the most important steps towards recovery is realizing that you have an issue with alcohol. The next step is deciding how you want to conduct your recovery; but there’s a lot to cope with, even once the big decision has been made. Like any drug, alcohol has physical side effects. Over a long period of time, consistent misuse of this substance will impact your body, which will require special attention on your part to ensure good health in sobriety. Knowing what issues may arise is the first part of combating them effectively. Alcoholic neuropathy in particular is a condition you may be concerned about, so common questions regarding signs and symptoms will be discussed below.

What Is Neuropathy?

You may have concerns and questions regarding the symptoms you should look for in the case of neuropathy. What causes it? What’s really going on with my body? How can I cope with it? Am I at risk? It’s important to understand that long-term alcohol abuse can cause permanent damage to the peripheral nervous system — the nerves that relay signals between your extremities and the central nervous system of your spinal cord and brain.

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Consistent over-consumption of alcohol negatively impacts the levels of vitamin E and many B vitamins required for good nerve health, and prevents the effective absorption of these nutrients. Therefore, good nutrition and sobriety must go hand-in-hand. This will help to ease some of the symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy and prevent further nerve damage. At a certain point, the damaged nerves can no longer rejuvenate themselves, so it’s vital that you know the signs and how to help curtail the damage to your peripheral nervous system.

Signs and Symptoms

Tingling is often the first and most pervasive symptom of neuropathy. The cause of this tingling, or “pins and needles” feeling, is the misfiring of the damaged nerves. You’ll likely feel this first in your hands and feet, fingers and toes. It’s similar to a limb that goes to sleep after prolonged inactivity, but will occur in the course of daily activities. Over time, this sensation will progress up your arms and legs, and portions of your face will also likely present this feeling without a detectable reason.

As the neuropathy progresses, the tingling sensations will become far more pronounced and painful. This is a result of the nerves sending out distress signals of increasing strength. Stabbing or poking, burning and sensitivity to touch are frequent signs of this process. The final stage of neuropathy is loss of sensation, which signals nerve death. Like diabetic neuropathy, the extremities usually must be amputated once the tissue begins to die. You’re at risk for neuropathy if you have a history of excessive, consistent consumption of alcohol.

While this sounds rather grim, remember that the process takes many years to occur. You can actually reduce the symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy (when you seek sobriety) by consuming a diet rich in healthy fats, dark and leafy green vegetables, fresh fruits and lean protein. While it’s certainly a cause for concern, there’s a great deal you can do to lessen the impact of alcohol abuse on your body.

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If you need information or support, helplines are a great place to begin your quest for better health and a sober lifestyle full of interest and growth. Call our hotline at 800-447-9081. We know you can do this, and we’re here to help.

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