The long-term effects of alcohol abuse can damage the liver, heart and brain. Alcoholic neuropathy, a physical disorder caused by alcoholism’s damaging effects on nerves, can result in devastating symptoms and permanent disability. If caught early enough, treatments can alleviate the symptoms and negate the possibility of chronic, disabling complications.
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The most immediate concern for a person suffering from alcoholic neuropathy is their over-consumption of alcohol. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that for these patients, alcohol should be avoided completely. For anyone with a long-term history of alcohol abuse, this can be challenging. However, there are a host of treatment options, from inpatient rehabilitation centers, to individual outpatient counseling, to 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous that can aid in this initial step toward recovery.
The National Institutes of Health notes that symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy are thought to be partially caused by the alcoholic's tendency to abandon proper dietary practices, and thus become nutrient deficient. In addition to an overhaul of daily eating habits, supplementing the individual's diet with thiamine and folic acid is recommended. Counseling from a dietitian may be necessary to aid the recovering alcohol abuser to maintain healthier eating habits.
Persons with alcoholic neuropathy frequently experience pain or abnormal sensations in their hands, arms, feet and legs. According to the NIH, pain management can be aided through the use of analgesic medications such as aspirin or acetaminophen, though precautions must be taken with the use of medications in patients with alcoholic neuropathy. Such patients have already demonstrated a predisposition toward addiction, thus any addictive medications should be avoided or carefully monitored by a physician.
Encouraging Independent Functioning
Muscle weakness and atrophy is a frequent consequence of alcoholic neuropathy. Physical rehabilitation can be aided through therapy and the use of orthopedic splints. Vertigo or lightheadedness is another common side effect of alcoholic neuropathy. Those suffering from this symptom may benefit from the use of certain medications, increased salt consumption, or sleeping with the head in an elevated position.
The reduction of sensory nerve impulses makes it possible for the individual with alcoholic neuropathy to be unaware that they have sustained injuries. This can lead to potentially life-threatening situations. The NIH advises that the individual take precautions such as checking bath water temperature and habitually monitor the hands and feet for signs of injury, to aid in ensuring that the individual does not inadvertently ignore an injury that could become infected or gangrenous.