Alcoholic Neuropathy - Introduction
Alcoholic neuropathy is a consequence of prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption. In chronic alcoholics the nerves are affected and they are not functioning properly. They become damaged over time and the patients eventually develop the symptoms and signs of the damage. Alcoholic neuropathy typically affects more than one nerve and is therefore classified as polyneuropathy.
It is clear that the underlying cause is related to excessive alcohol consumption. This medical condition affects people who are drinking for at least 10 years. During this period of time the symptoms and signs of the nerve damage become noticeable. The damage is caused by toxic effect of alcohol or related to inappropriate intake of certain vitamins which is typical for alcoholics. Namely, they eventually lose appetite and their diet becomes imbalanced and low in certain substances necessary for proper functioning of the nerves.
Symptoms of Alcoholic Neuropathy
Once the symptoms and signs occur they tend to progress gradually and become worse over time. Initial symptoms may include weakness of legs but this is only one option.
A typical symptom of this condition is so called 'pins and needles' sensation in the legs and arms. The affected body parts may be also numb. Patients complain about general weakness which is noticeable even during the simplest daily activities. There are muscle cramps in the legs and/ or arms. Men suffering from alcohol neuropathy may become impotent. Another characteristic of alcoholic neuropathy is low blood pressure. It usually occurs in the beginning of the disease. If the condition affects nerves of the bladder one may experience a variety of problems related to urination starting with frequent urination to complete loss of bladder control. Patients may also suffer from constipation or diarrhea. In advanced stages some patients complain about swallowing difficulties.
The disease is progressive and if one continues drinking there is no chance of any improvement and alleviation of symptoms even if proper therapy is applied.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Alcoholic Neuropathy
There are several tests which are used in case of alcoholic neuropathy. The doctor examines the knee jerk reflexes and the eyes. Furthermore, it is essential to determine whether there are nutritional deficiencies (deficiency of vitamin B1, B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin A, biotin, and pantothenic acid). Liver and kidney function are also checked. The function of patient's nerves is examined as well.
The goal of the treatment is to control the symptoms of the disease and improve patient's ability to function properly. The treatment also includes preventive measures against possible injury due to muscle weakness and impaired motor functions.
It is crucial for one to stop drinking. The lack of nutrients is obtained via supplements and physical therapy improves muscle function. The pain in alcoholic neuropathy is alleviated by pain killers and they may be only prescribed by a doctor. People suffering from severe reduction of certain sensations and numbness must be very careful in order to prevent possible burns or even frostbites.