What Alcoholic Neuropathy Can Permanently Do To You!

Too much intake of alcohol leads to several complications, one of which is alcoholic neuropathy. As like other neuropathies, the nerves are damaged leading to a loss of sensation and numbness, even paralysis in the area supplied by the affected nerve.

Its cause is still debatable, with some experts saying that the free radicals released by the absorption of alcohol in the body attach themselves to the cells of the liver and other organs, then damage the nerve cells to render their normal functions halted. It is somewhat associated with nutritional deficiencies that can also cause neuropathies.

General symptoms include numbness, general malaise, tingling and burning feet, muscle cramps, impotence, as well as urinary and digestive problems. Sometimes, even the autonomic nerves are affected which may cause difficulty in swallowing, impaired speech, muscle atrophy and spasm, dysfunctional movements, and drooping eyelids. (Autonomic nerves: these are the nerves responsible for the regulation of physiological body functions.) Being an alcoholic for more than a decade increases the risk for alcoholic neuropathy. These symptoms develop gradually and get worse over time.

To confirm, a neurological exam may be conducted, and reflexes tested. A positive indication of this disease is an abnormal neurological outcome, reduced reflexes and localized nerve abnormalities that are usually symmetrical. Laboratory tests can be done to further identify the nerves affected. These tests detect the low levels of vitamins in the body, abnormal serum chemistry, and decreased movement in the upper gastrointestinal tract. A esophagogastroduodenoscope can be used to rule out physical obstruction as a cause of the gastrointestinal disturbances. Electromyography and nerve conduction studies can help determine which nerve is affected. A nerve biopsy can also be performed.

To treat alcoholic neuropathy, these alcoholics should be first rehabilitated to control their symptoms. Vitamin supplements are given to replenish the lost vitamins. Muscle function is maximized by physical therapy. Medicine is prescribed — at the least amount possible — to evoke an effect on the ailment so as to reduce the patient’s dependence on the drug and prevent transference of addiction. Pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen are suggested for the pain. For chronic autonomic dysfunction, the treatment is long term, with response times mixed, and dependent on many factors. Fludrocortisone is given to reduce orthostatic hypotension, or postural blood pressure changes. Bladder dysfunction is treated by catheters and medications like bethanechol.

Intake of alcohol should be totally stopped to halt the progression of the damage. For the treatment of alcoholism, psychiatric and rehabilitation centers as well as support groups are available. Damage to nerves by alcoholic neuropathy is permanent. Even though this disorder does not suddenly end one’s life it still gradually compromises the quality of life because of its symptoms that can also progress to other more serious conditions.

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