As many as 33 percent of alcoholics develop alcoholic myopathy, a breakdown of the proximal muscle tissue, lead author Jose Nicolas of the University of Barcelona reported in an August 2003 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” Proximal muscles are those found nearest the body’s trunk. Alcoholic myopathy can occur as an acute or chronic disease, with the acute form usually following an episode of binge drinking. The acute form is four times more common in males than females, the Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health states. Alcoholic myopathy can have serious symptoms and side effects.
In the acute form of alcoholic myopathy, muscle pain, tenderness, swelling and weakness may be the first symptoms noted after waking from an alcoholic stupor after binge drinking, states Thomas Klopstock, M.D., of the University of Munich, on MedLink.com. Pain in the calf similar to the pain of deep vein thrombosis may occur. In severe cases of acute alcoholic myopathy, muscles of the throat, diaphragm and upper chest may also begin to break down. Muscle breakdown in acute disease may be exacerbated by crush or compression injuries that occur when muscles groups are compressed for long periods of time after an alcoholic passes out, S. Singh, of Chandigarh India, reports in a 2000 issue of “Neurology India.”
Painless proximal muscle atrophy, with a striking decrease in muscle bulk and weakness develop in chronic myopathy, with the hips, shoulders, thighs and upper arms most notably affected. Males and females are equally affected by the chronic form of the disease.
Alcoholic myopathy can weaken the heart muscles, leading to cardiomyopathy. Severe disease can lead to increased serum potassium levels from muscle breakdown, which can cause heart arrhythmias and irregular beats. Abnormal heart rhythms can cause death in some cases, the Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health warns.
The breakdown of muscle tissue releases myoglobin, which is excreted in the urine. Urine may turn red from myoglobin. Myoglobin release, along with other enzymes such as creatine kinase, can also cause acute renal, or kidney, failure, Singh warns. Acute renal failure may require temporary dialysis until the kidneys recover.