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Alcoholic Neuropathy: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments

By Ramanand

This condition often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in the hands and feet. It also can affect other areas and body functions including digestion and urination. While there is no cure for alcoholic neuropathy, the primary goal of treatment is to manage symptoms, prevent further nerve damage, and promote overall health and wellbeing. A skin biopsy of the sural nerve may be conducted and will initially show small fiber neuropathy, which results from injury to nerve fibers that may be myelinated or unmyelinated. Allodynia—when pain is experienced by a stimulus that wouldn’t normally cause pain—may be present in small fiber neuropathy.

The goals of nursing care for patients with alcohol-induced PN are to control pain, promote optimal nutritional status and mobility, and evaluate the patient’s responses to treatment. Ensuring patient safety and interprofessional collaboration are major frameworks for achieving these goals. To evaluate the peripheral nervous system for primary neurologic pathology or secondary systemic disorders, electrodiagnostic testing consists of nerve conduction studies to measure nerve conduction and an electromyogram (EMG) to measure muscle conduction. Autonomic nerve damage may cause a fluctuation in heart rate and BP, leading to orthostatic hypotension. Patients are likely to experience heat intolerance, excessive sweating, difficulty while swallowing, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. Sexual drive and performance are diminished in both men and women, including erectile dysfunction in men.

Other areas of the body

The prevalence of PN ranges from 2.4% to 8% per 100,000 individuals worldwide. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy and the US Food and Drug Administration estimate that 20 million people in the US experience PN. Neuropathic syndromes may develop from diabetes mellitus, vasculitis secondary to immune-mediated diseases, genetic disorders, malignancies, infections, vitamin deficiencies, medications, toxins, trauma, compression, and chronic heavy alcohol consumption. An analysis of lab data may correlate with the patient’s neuropathic syndrome and systemic symptoms. Elevated levels of the liver enzymes gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, and alkaline phosphatase may indicate long-standing heavy alcohol consumption and its effects on hepatic function.

alcohol neuropathy stages

A priority treatment approach is to increase the patient’s caloric intake of nutritious foods. Chronic heavy alcohol consumption depletes hepatic proteins for energy and leads to a lack of B vitamins for carbohydrate metabolism and optimal functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Patients may be severely malnourished and dehydrated with electrolyte imbalances.

ALN and Gender

Alcoholic neuropathy is a type of peripheral neuropathy, which means it affects the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. The toxic effects of alcohol on nerve tissue, combined with nutritional deficiencies caused by alcohol alcohol neuropathy stages abuse, can lead to nerve damage and dysfunction. The clinical presentation of alcohol-induced PN is similar to other etiologies of PN. However, the pathophysiology of alcohol-induced PN is different than other forms of PN.

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