If you’re a heavy drinker and experience pain or tingling in your arms, hands, legs, or feet, you could have a condition that affects your nerves called neuropathy. The good news is that by managing your alcohol intake and seeking medical treatment for your condition, you can improve your symptoms and even reverse this nerve damage.
At Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists in Arlington, Virginia, our providers specialize in diagnosing and treating alcohol-related neuropathy. Take a moment to learn more about the connection between alcohol and neuropathy and how we help manage your condition.
Your nervous system sends information from your brain to the many parts of your body. Neuropathy is a medical condition that affects your nervous system.
Since the condition can affect different types of nerves, neuropathy isn’t a single disease. Instead, neuropathy actually describes many disorders that result from nerve damage. One of the most common types of neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy.
Your peripheral nervous system takes sensory information to your brain. If the peripheral nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord are damaged, you may develop this type of neuropathy.
With peripheral neuropathy, since your peripheral nerves can’t function normally, the signals sent to and from the central nervous system get disrupted and cause painful and problematic symptoms, including:
- Tingling, numbness, or prickling sensations in your feet, hands, arms, or legs
- Sharp, throbbing, or burning pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch or temperature (e.g., a blanket hurting your skin)
- Pain during normal activities
- Failing coordination and muscle weakness
- A feeling like you’re always wearing socks or gloves
- Urinary incontinence
You develop these symptoms with peripheral neuropathy because your nervous system cannot function normally. As neuropathy progresses, you may experience difficulty moving and even paralysis.
The link between alcohol use and neuropathy
Neuropathy caused by alcohol use is called alcoholic neuropathy. Alcohol is a toxin, so when you drink too much, it damages the protective sheath that covers your nerves. This damage disrupts normal nerve signals and can trigger neuropathy.
In addition, alcohol affects the way your body uses, moves, and absorbs key nutrients essential for nerve functioning. Many people who drink excessively also don’t have the best nutritional intake, further contributing to the development of neuropathy.
If alcohol use causes your neuropathy, you may notice additional symptoms besides those listed above. For example, you may have symptoms that mimic what happens when you drink, like feeling dizzy or unsteady when you walk, difficulty walking in a straight line, and feeling like you’re still buzzed or hungover.
Of course, not everyone who consumes alcohol develops neuropathy. Certain factors increase your risk, including:
- Alcohol abuse or alcoholism (usually for many years)
- Having diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease
- Having vitamin and nutrient deficiencies (e.g., vitamin B12; thiamine; folate)
- Having a poor diet
Fortunately, by seeking medical treatment for your neuropathy and reducing your intake of alcohol, many of the symptoms associated with alcoholic neuropathy improve and can even be reversed.
How we treat alcohol-related neuropathy
At Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists, your personalized neuropathy treatment begins by determining the factors contributing to your condition. Alcohol may play a role, but other factors can contribute, including:
- Traumatic injury to the nerve(s)
- Compression/entrapment of the nerve(s)
- Repetitive stress injury to the nerve(s)
- Certain medications, infections, and autoimmune diseases
- Kidney or liver disease
- Vitamin/nutritional deficiencies unrelated to alcohol consumption
Using a holistic approach, your provider helps manage your neuropathy by treating the underlying issues that contribute to it. Besides working with you to manage your alcohol consumption, your personalized neuropathy treatment plan may include:
- Nutritional therapy
- Over-the-counter (OTC) topical medications
- OTC oral pain medications
- Prescription medications
- Relaxation techniques
- Ergonomics and splints
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Peripheral nerve blocks
- Implantable therapies (e.g., spinal cord stimulation; intrathecal drug delivery system; dorsal root ganglion stimulation; peripheral nerve stimulation)
We custom design your treatment plan to help minimize further nerve damage, improve your circulation, and ease any painful or uncomfortable symptoms you experience.
To learn more about the link between alcohol use and neuropathy, schedule an appointment online or over the phone with a provider at Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists in Northern Virginia.