Alcoholic Neuropathy: Does Alcohol Cause Peripheral Nerve Damage?

However, if caught early enough, you can minimize the damage from alcoholic neuropathy. Avoiding alcohol and improving your diet can sometimes lead to a moderate to full recovery. Excessive, long-term consumption of alcohol can lead to malnutrition as well as nerve damage, and both contribute to the development of alcoholic neuropathy. When alcohol is responsible for damage to the peripheral nerves, a person has alcoholic neuropathy. People who drink heavily on a regular basis are at risk of developing this condition.

  • Some of them are similar to the side effects of drinking alcohol every day.
  • These individuals draw the majority of calories from calorie rich alcoholic beverages with low nutritive value.
  • A person who drinks alcohol in excess may start to feel a tingling sensation in their limbs.
  • The main symptom was a pain, which was excruciating at times, but which could wax and wane.

Progression of symptoms is usually gradual, continuing over months or years [2, 4]. Electrophysiologic and pathologic findings mainly indicate axonal neuropathy with reduced nerve fibre densities. Densities of small myelinated fibres and unmyelinated fibres were more severely reduced than the density of large myelinated fibres, except in patients with a long history of neuropathic symptoms and marked axonal sprouting [2]. Subperineurial oedema is more prominent in thiamine deficient neuropathy, whereas segmental de/remyelination resulting from widening of consecutive nodes of Ranvier is more frequent in alcoholic neuropathy [3].

Oxidative-nitrosative stress and alcoholic neuropathy

These two groups, however, were distinct from the standpoint that nerve conduction velocities were slower and sural nerve biopsy specimens revealed more segmental demyelination in the post gastrectomy group. Alcoholic polyneuropathy is a neurological disorder in which peripheral nerves throughout the body malfunction simultaneously. It is defined by axonal degeneration in neurons of both the sensory and motor systems and initially occurs at the distal ends of the longest axons in the body. This nerve damage causes an individual to experience pain and motor weakness, first in the feet and hands and then progressing centrally.

You may need to be sedated for more than a week until the alcohol withdrawal symptoms go away. And a doctor may use brain-imaging techniques to monitor treatment over time. A doctor will take a thorough health history and have you complete questionnaires related to alcohol intake to help diagnose these conditions.

Evaluation & Tests

Does anyone have an informed opinion or experience similar to mine. In particular, I would appreciate a reference to a good article which addresses this subject. I understand that alcohol is a neurotoxin, so the simplest answer would simply be to stop drinking. Furthermore, my evening drinks distract me somewhat from the pain. At my age, I’d hate to give them up if it’s not really going to make a difference.

A variety of sensory, motor, and autonomic symptoms develop over months to years and worsen with time. These symptoms may not respond favorably to treatment, especially if the patient doesn’t reduce or abstain from alcohol consumption. Among patients with chronic alcohol use disorder, neuropathy is the most common harmful sequelae. It is estimated that in the United States 25% to 66% of chronic alcohol users experience some form of neuropathy; however, the true incidence in the general population is unknown. The majority of patients were middle-class, working men and continuous drinkers were more affected than episodic drinkers. Parental family history is a risk factor for developing this condition.

Diagnosing Alcoholic Neuropathy

H and F wave latencies were not routinely reported but were found to be prolonged in those with alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy in studies that did [4, 67]. Particular attention was paid to radial SNAPs, tibial CMAPs, and sural SNAPs due to them being spared in entrapment neuropathies unlike the median, ulnar, and peroneal nerves. The sural nerve was the most commonly reported nerve [2, 3, 5, 11, 27, 37–39, 51, 53, 59, 63, 68]. Motor function of the tibial nerve was the next common [3, 11, 51, 54, 59, 63]. Only one study examined radial nerves which reported reduced SNAP [53]. Finally, one study examined the strength-duration time constant (SDTC) and rheobase in median nerves of those with alcoholic peripheral neuropathy [69].

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Alcoholic neuropathy is also caused by nutritional deficiency, as well as toxins that build up in the body. Alcohol decreases the absorption of nutrients, such as protein and vitamin B12, causing significant deficits that affect many areas of the body, including the nerves. In general, it takes years for alcoholic neuropathy to develop, so a long-standing history of heavy alcohol use is typical. Some people experience a faster onset and progression of alcoholic neuropathy than others. It’s not completely clear why some people are more prone to this complication than others. Alcoholic neuropathy damages sensory nerves, resulting in a decreased sensation in the hands and feet.


I’m trying to determine whether or not drinking has any effect on my PN. Now, I don’t notice whether the drinking has any immediate effect or not. Those are probably the definitive tests in making the diagnosis of what form of PN you have. I can say the biggest cause of neuropathy in Germany is alcoholism. You would need a neurologist to try and get a detailed analysis of possibilities.

how much alcohol causes neuropathy

While becoming sober and improving your diet will help your body heal in the long-term, neither will immediately help you deal with the pain and other symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy. Fortunately, there are a number of different treatments that can help lessen the pain, alcohol neuropathy improve your balance, and promote nerve regeneration without medications. Fox Integrated Healthcare offers a variety of treatments that are proven to combat neuropathy without medication. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you with alcoholic neuropathy.

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