Can Alcohol-Induced Neuropathy Be Cured?

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Alcohol is a powerful depressant. When consumed, it impacts nearly every system of the body. One of the systems impacted the most is the nervous system. As someone excessively consumes alcohol, it may result in impacting the nervous system with a condition called neuropathy. Often affecting the extremities first, these uncomfortable sensations can be unpleasant at best and potentially dangerous at worst. Though it is reversible in some cases, much is still unknown about this alcohol side effect.

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How Does Alcoholism Cause Nerve Damage & Neuropathy?

Neuropathy is a condition that may result from extended periods of excessive alcohol consumption. Studies show that an estimated 66% (1) of those with an alcohol use disorder have some form of neuropathy. Neuropathy occurs when nerves throughout the body fail to communicate or communicate incorrectly to each other. This causes sensations of numbness, tingeling, or burning in the areas impacted.

Chronic alcohol use is directly related to neuropathy, but the exact mechanism of action remains largely a mystery. Scientists agree, however, on the root cause of this condition being lack of vital nutrients. As excessive alcohol is consumed, a concoction of toxins is released throughout the body. This combined with the lack of vital nutrients can cause parts of the body to remain malnourished. As important vitamins like B12 are depleted, the body will begin pulling the remaining nutrients towards the vital organs and away from the extremities. This leads to nerve malfunction commonly known as neuropathy.

What Symptoms Are Common With Neuropathy?

The symptoms associated  (2) with neuropathy depend on which type of nerve is impacted. The three categories of nerves include motor nerves, sensory nerves, and autonomic nerves. Though the symptoms can be uncomfortable, they are rarely life threatening.

Symptoms related to neuropathy of the motor nerves include:

  • Painful cramps
  • Fasciculations (uncontrolled muscle twitching visible under the skin)
  • Muscle shrinking

Symptoms related to sensory nerve damage include:

  • Burning
  • Tingeling
  • Numbness

Symptoms related to autonomic nerve damage include:

  • Excess sweating.
  • Heat intolerance.
  • Inability to expand and contract the small blood vessels that regulate blood pressure.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Problems eating or swallowing if the nerves that control the esophagus are affected (although this is rare).

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How Much Alcohol Consumption Causes Neuropathy?

Alcohol varies widely in the way that it impacts each individual. Factors such as weight, age, gender, tolerance, and length of use all play an important role in determining impact. In general the longer period of chronic use results in an increased risk for developing neuropathy. As excessive alcohol is consumed it will negatively impact each system of the body. These impacts, like neuropathy, often come as the result of limited nutrients to each system. When alcohol consumption replaces important vitamins and minerals required for life it is an indication that serious health consequences may come as a result.

The Importance of Proper Nutrition in Nerve Regeneration

An important factor in the treatment of neuropathy is proper nutrition (3). Ensuring that each system of the body receives the required vitamins has been shown as a key factor in the nerve regeneration process. First, ceasing excessive alcohol consumption is an important requirement for beginning the healing process. Once this has begun, receiving the proper nutrition, specifically B vitamins, will help the body in the process of regrowing and repairing important nerve tissue. This will begin to lessen the symptoms associated with neuropathy.

Maintenance & Treatment for Symptoms Caused by Alcohol Neuropathy

Symptoms for alcohol induced neuropathy are often induced by malnutrition. Replacing essential vitamins and minerals with the empty calories from alcohol can cause nerves to communicate poorly. Treatment for these symptoms (4) will begin with limiting alcohol consumption. It will then involve replacing the vitamins and minerals neglected while drinking excessively. Important vitamins for this process are B vitamins. Along with proper nutrition, physical therapy exercises may be used to regain mobility and sensations lost during neuropathy. Continued limitation of alcohol consumption and proper nutrition will also be the steps required for long term maintenance of neuropathy symptoms.

Should You Drink if You Have Neuropathy or Nerve Damage?

Often, excessive alcohol consumption is one of the root causes for neuropathy. Continuing to drink may potentially worsen this condition or lengthen the recovery process. For this reason, sobriety is recommended. Replacing excessive alcohol consumption with healthy nutrition will be key in treatment of neuropathy and its symptoms.

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Preventing Alcohol-Induced Neuropathy

The first step in preventing alcohol-induced neuropathy is limiting alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption can replace important nutrients your body needs. Without these nutrients, nerve damage may occur. This leads to the symptoms and sensations associated with alcohol-induced neuropathy. Ensuring proper nutrition is a key factor in mitigating the risk of alcohol-induced neuropathy.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty limiting their alcohol consumption, it may be a symptom of an alcohol use disorder. Treatment for these and other life controlling conditions is available through Guardian Recovery. We are a national network of treatment facilities committed to the health and recovery of each of our program participants. Call today to speak with a treatment advisor about your options. Your journey to the life you have dreamed of can start today.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499856/
  2. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/peripheral-neuropathy#:~:text=What%20is%20peripheral%20neuropathy%3F,other%20parts%20of%20the%20body.
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3370340/
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352067

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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