Alcoholic neuropathy – how neurological disorder manifests itself


Chronic alcoholics often diagnose alcoholic neuropathy, a serious illness that develops as a result of prolonged intoxication of the body with ethanol decomposition products. disrupts metabolic processes, leading to a delay in the transmission of nerve signals. As a consequence, malfunctions occur in the brain.

General information

One of the common causes of chronic alcoholism preceding polyneuropathy is an abnormality of the genes that are responsible for coding enzymes involved in the breakdown of ethanol into acetaldehyde. Gene failure leads to the wrong process of neutralization of toxic compounds, as a result of which alcohol dependence is formed.

Alcoholic polyneuropathy (neuropathy) is a neurological disease that occurs in chronic alcoholics at the last stage of dependence. Pathological changes occur due to toxic effects of metabolites on multiple fibers of the peripheral system, which leads to their destruction and the appearance of unhealthy symptoms.

Initially, the sensitivity of the legs begins to decrease. Observed cognitive and motor disorders. Ethanol damages the intestinal walls, making it difficult to absorb the nutrients. As a result, the functioning of the digestive system is disrupted. Vitamin B deficiency develops.

Neuropathy is not the only result of chronic alcoholism. In addition to damage to the functionality of the , ethanol affects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy; liver, causing cirrhosis; muscular system, leading to myopathy. Alcohol-induced characteristic memory disorders, Korsakoff syndrome, have been identified.

After consuming large doses of alcoholic alcoholic usually falls asleep, being in an uncomfortable position for a long period of time. This leads to compression of the nerve fibers, which is the cause of the development of compression-ischemic neuropathy.

Interesting! The clinical manifestations of alcoholic neuropathy were first described by Letts in 1787.

The International Classification of Diseases of Pathology is assigned a code according to ICD 10 – G 62.1. The symbols correspond to the name of the disease state, which is characterized by damage to the peripheral nerves.

Pathology leads to the destruction of the basis of the nerves – the axon, provoking axonal degeneration. The decay products of ethanol destroy the myelin – the shell of the fiber (demyelination). Such phenomena lead to a halt in the transmission of nerve signals, causing destructive processes in the tissues.

The disease is more commonly diagnosed in women. The female body is more susceptible to ethyl alcohol, so the development of polyneuropathy occurs earlier than in men. It is proved that daily intake of 200 ml of strong alcohol-containing beverages leads to the formation of the disease within 5 years.

Types of disease

Based on the clinical picture of the disease, the following forms of pathology are distinguished:

  • Motor. It is characterized by a slight loss of sensory susceptibility, the presence of paresis. The functionality of the lower extremities is actively affected: it is difficult to bend the phalanges of the fingers, rotate the feet, the Achilles reaction worsens.
  • Sensory. The threshold of pain and temperature sensitivity decreases, there is a feeling of numbness in the legs. Disturbed convulsive syndrome and autonomic disorders.
  • Atactic. Accompanied by improper coordination of movements, unnatural gait, pain when touching the skin. There is no tendon reaction.
  • Mixed Combines sensory and motor disorders. It is expressed in significant numbness, pain, paralysis of the limbs. Muscles of the forearms and hands may atrophy. Worsen reflexes. drops sharply.

When a painful condition lasts for more than a year, a subacute form of neuropathy is diagnosed, with a more rapid increase in symptoms, an acute one. The latter type develops due to the use of a large dose of alcohol, characterized by bright signs.

Pathology develops in accordance with certain stages: initial, progressive, stationary and regressive. The last stage is achieved with adequate treatment.

How does the disease manifest itself

Alcoholic polyneuropathy usually progresses gradually, initially there are no characteristic symptoms of the disease. Clinical symptoms begin to increase when the patient feels weakness in the legs, it is difficult for him to move.

Often the disease is complicated by alcoholic encephalopathy, which has an unfavorable prognosis for recovery.

First of all, motor functions are impaired. In an alcoholic, the gait changes due to damage to the extensor muscles in the foot. Legs grow thin significantly, this is explained by muscle atrophy in calves. Patients have no reaction to heat stimuli, they do not feel the floor under their feet, their legs become “wadded.” The muscles of the hands begin to atrophy last.

There is a change in the color and quality of the skin on the legs: the cover gets a marble shade, peels off. The nail plate is deformed, it becomes brittle. The patient is experiencing excessive sweating. In the final stages, ulcers and swelling are formed.

Increased paralysis, significantly limiting the activity of the patient. As the toxic damage to the nerve tissue increases, tachycardia and shortness of breath develop. Neuropathy is accompanied by an amnestic syndrome, in which amnesia is formed, a person loses the ability to navigate in time and space.

Patients complain of excruciating pains in the legs, manifested by burning sensation. Paresthesia develops – a sensation of tingling, itching in the muscles and feet. Symptoms are increasing at night, causing insomnia. Soreness comes from light touch. As the destructive process progresses, the pain subsides, indicating the destruction of nervous tissue.

Usually, sensory dysfunction appears first, then trophic and vegetative. Lesions are characterized by symmetry. Prolonged experience of the disease causes a loss of pelvic control.

When alcohol damages the optic nerve, amblyopia is diagnosed – visual impairment that develops over 2 weeks. In the absence of therapy, blindness occurs.

With severe disease, the respiratory muscles are weakened, leading to respiratory failure. To prevent such a complication, emergency mechanical ventilation is required. Also, there is damage to the nerves of the skull, the progression of mental disorders.

Causes of Neurological Disorder

Neurological pathology of alcohol genesis is formed at the last stage of chronic alcoholism. The following factors contribute to the destruction of peripheral fibers:

  • toxic effects of ethanol;
  • vitamin B deficiency;
  • failure of metabolic processes in the nerves;
  • liver disease;
  • the presence of abnormal genes, adversely affecting the splitting of ethanol.

The use of surrogate alcoholic drinks at times increases the risk of polyneuropathy. Such fluids instantly destroy thiamine, destroying liver cells. In addition, denaturations can lead to death.

With constant use of alcohol affects the organs of the digestive system, develops gastritis, pancreatitis, hepatitis, accompanied by improper absorption of foods and microelements. The reason for the lack of vitamins of group B is the monotonous defective menu of an alcoholic.

Such a deficiency disrupts the supply of nerve tissue, leading to their dysfunction. The dependence of the lack of vitamins on the dose of ethyl alcohol has been established: a greater amount of alcohol causes a greater deficiency.

Infectious diseases, bleeding and other factors that increase energy expenditure exacerbate the lack of vitamins, nicotinic acid, and reduce the concentration of potassium and magnesium. This leads to protein deficiency.

Diabetes, epilepsy, drug overdose, cancer can lead to the formation of developmental abnormalities, causing dysfunction of the nervous system. The prognosis for such conditions is unfavorable.

Diagnostic methods

Alcoholic polyneuropathy is diagnosed when 2 or more peripheral fibers and 1 muscle are damaged. In addition, when examining a patient, motor, sensory and vegetative lesions should be detected.

Alcoholic neuropathy - how neurological disorder manifests itself

It is necessary to confirm that degenerative changes have an alcoholic origin. For this you need to interview the patient and relatives. Electroneuromyography is required – a procedure guaranteed to detect the symptoms of axonal degeneration and damage to the myelin capsule.

It is necessary to distinguish polyneuropathy of alcoholic origin from diabetic. Diabetic polyneuropathy is characterized by identical manifestations. For correct diagnosis requires correct differential diagnosis. To exclude uremic and diabetic polyneuropathy, an analysis of the spinal fluid and a biopsy of the affected tissue is required. In controversial cases, resorted to magnetic resonance imaging.


Therapy of neuropathy is carried out in a complex. It includes taking medication and lifestyle changes. The primary task is a complete rejection of alcohol. If this rule is not followed, recovery is impossible.

It is necessary to start a balanced , including in the diet products containing a high concentration of nutrients: nuts, meat, fish, vegetables, dairy products, natural honey. Changing the diet saturates the kidneys and liver with vitamin elements, and the brain with oxygen, which restores nerve tissue.

In chronic alcoholism, polyneuropathy is treated only for a short period of dependence. When the degenerative changes are fully formed and the nerve tissue is destroyed by ethanol, it is impossible to restore health. Medicine can only reduce the manifestations of the disease process, stabilizing the patient’s condition.

Drug therapy

The main task of treatment is to restore the lost functions of the body. Selection of drugs should be made taking into account the patient’s neurological vulnerability.

From pharmacological products choose:

  • pyridoxine (vitamin B6);
  • thiamine (vitamin B1), which is initially injected intramuscularly, and then used in tablet form;
  • folic acid;
  • Curantil, Cavinton, Emksipan – agents that normalize blood circulation, strengthen vascular walls;
  • Octolipen, Berlithion, Espalion – antioxidant preparations containing lipoic acid;
  • Actovegin, Cortexin, Tanakan, Semax – drugs of neurotrophic nature;
  • hepatoprotectors, regenerating liver tissue.

The pain in neuropathy is neurological in nature, so for its elimination it is not enough to take classic painkillers. Anti-inflammatory medications of the nonsteroidal series help to get rid of the pain syndrome: Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Meloxicam.

It is forbidden to use potent painkillers uncontrollably. The doctor should limit the frequency of taking medication, so as not to provoke the formation of drug dependence.

Note! Since most drugs are not compatible with alcohol, it is required to completely give up alcohol.

Also appointed anticonvulsants, such as Lyrics, Finlepsin, Neurontin. Antidepressant medication is needed: Paroxetine, .

Of great importance is psychological assistance. The patient needs to explain the causes of the disease so that he realizes the need to abandon strong drinks in favor of recovery. A person must understand that non-observance of this rule can lead to disability and death.

Additional methods of therapy

To strengthen the muscular system and improve the functioning of nerve endings, physiotherapy methods, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy are resorted to.

To restore motor activity, you can turn to traditional medicine. Effective cocktail of natural honey and eggs. It is required to combine in one tank a chicken egg, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and honey. All ingredients are whipped with a mixer, at the end of the process should be added to the drink half a cup of carrot juice. Therapeutic cocktail is taken twice a day.

To evacuate toxic compounds from the body, you need to mix low-fat kefir with parsley and sunflower seeds. It is necessary to drink a valuable drink daily before breakfast.

Especially useful foot baths, which are prepared from sliced ​​pods of hot pepper and pine infusion. It is necessary to immerse the feet in liquid for half an hour, then keep the limbs warm. The tool returns sensual susceptibility.

It is recommended to accompany the treatment with the intake of sedative herbs: valerian, motherwort.


Without symptomatic therapy, signs of neuropathy are increasing. The process can result in paralysis of the legs, mental disorders, damage to the cerebellum, which is manifested in an irreversible violation of motor skills. The polyneuropathy diagnosed at the initial stage is easily treatable. Symptoms of the disease regress, but with an alcohol relapse, symptoms recur. The rehabilitation period after chronic alcoholism is more than six months.

Alcohol-induced neuropathy is the inevitable result of alcohol abuse. The disease can turn a person into an invalid, completely changing life. Only refusal of alcohol and timely medical care can cure the patient.

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