Alcohol can have a toxic effect on nerve tissue, and alcohol abuse is a frequent cause of neuropathy. People suffering from alcoholic neuropathy may feel burning and tingling sensations in their feet, which may persist or may last from a few months to a few years. People with alcoholic neuropathy who stop drinking, may alleviate their current symptoms and prevent further nerve deterioration. Damage to nerves caused by alcoholic neuropathy, however, is usually permanent.
Chronic alcoholism is often associated with malnutrition and nutritional and vitamin deficiencies, including B12, B1 (thiamin), folate and other B vitamins. It may be hard to distinguish nutrition-related neuropathies from alcoholic neuropathy.
Symptoms & Signs
(Not all symptoms and signs may be present.)
- “Pins and needles”
- Muscle weakness, cramps, or aches
- Muscle spasms / contractions
- Incontinence (leaking urine) or difficulty with urination
- Impotence in men
- Nausea / vomiting
Evaluation & Tests
(Not all evaluation and tests may be necessary.)
- Neurological exam
- Nerve conduction velocity test
- Nerve biopsy
- Lab tests
- Serum chemistries
- Upper GI and small bowel series
Treatment & Therapy
(Not all treatments and therapies may be indicated.)
- Seek treatment for alcoholism
- Stop drinking
- Supplement diet with vitamins, including B1 (thiamine), B12, folate and Vitamin E. Too much vitamin B6, however, may worsen peripheral neuropathy
- Pain medication
- Physical therapy
- Use of orthopedic appliances, such as orthotic devices, which may be covered by Medicaid.
- Take safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation.