One of the most serious—but rarely discussed—conditions resulting from extended alcoholism is alcoholic neuropathy. One of the reasons for its being relatively obscure, aside from difficulties inherent in any discussion of substance abuse, is that much of the scientific evidence linking neuropathy and alcoholism is somewhat vague. Even so, medical science generally accepts that excessive use of alcohol can cause neuropathy.
Alcoholic neuropathy has symptoms similar to other forms of neuropathy, with tingling and numbness in the extremities, loss of heat and cold sensation, loss of fine motor control, impotence in men, and so on. All this is accompanied by the chronic pain typical in cases of peripheral neuropathy. Because of the areas of the mind and body targeted by the alcohol, it is common for alcoholic neuropathy sufferers to exhibit outward signs of intoxication even when sober, such as slurred speech, stumbling gait, and clumsiness. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that, in severely affected patients, the legs and hands may be nearly useless to the point of paralysis and sensation may be entirely absent in extremities. In these cases, the skin can also be dry and atrophic.
The specific causes of alcoholic neuropathy are difficult to pin down, and thus, the case can be tricky to diagnose. If you frequently drink alcohol, let your doctor know! Generally, a pattern of heavy alcohol use for a period of ten years or more will be accompanied by neuropathy symptoms. A leading theory contends that the cause of alcohol-related neuropathy may be the combined effect of direct nerve-poisoning by the alcohol itself, coupled with the long-term poor nutrition that often accompanies alcohol abuse. Alcoholics typically exhibit erratic eating habits, resulting in poor overall nutrient intake, and the damage to organs reduces the absorption of nutrients from food. Of course, difficulty in motor control resultant from neuropathy often exacerbates the malnutrition, as the patient becomes socially uneasy about mealtimes and self-conscious about feeding themselves.
Nerve damage from alcoholism is usually permanent. If you believe you suffer from alcoholic neuropathy, the first order of business, of course, is to bring your drinking and nutrition problems under control! If your alcohol consumption is not severely limited and adequate nourishment is not supplied, additional treatments will be futile and your symptoms will almost invariably compound. Beyond this, treatment will seek three main goals:
• To control symptoms
• To maximize and restore function (quality of life)
• To prevent further injury to the patient due to neuropathic vulnerabilities
Most treatments address these three tenets simultaneously. Pharmaceutical treatments include the use of painkillers, either prescription strength or over-the-counter (such as analgesics). Your doctor will probably recommend the lightest use of pain medication possible; this is very important if you, as an alcoholic, have a propensity for substance abuse. During a period of withdrawal, you are especially vulnerable to new addiction. Be aware of this danger, and monitor use of any medications very carefully.
Because of the underlying nutritional deficit usually at the root of alcoholic neuropathy, you may benefit from a system of nutritional supplements and parenteral multivitamins. Consult a dietician or your NeuropathyDR® clinician to ensure the proper replenishment of nutrients necessary to prevent the spread of neuropathic symptoms.
Several new lifestyle habits can help you adjust to living with alcoholic neuropathy, such as carefully monitoring the temperature of bathwater to prevent burning, inspecting yourself and your clothing and footwear for points of rubbing or wear on your skin, and so forth. Establishing these habits (which are themselves advisable for all neuropathy patients) can be instrumental in replacing the drinking routine that caused the problem. Living with neuropathy can actually help you break the cycle!
Although nerve damage is usually permanent, your prognosis for sufferers of alcohol-related neuropathy can be very good if you are able to replenish your nutrition and stop drinking. You probably won’t see substantial recovery from neuropathic symptoms for several months. Of course, you’ll see subjective improvements in lifestyle and health almost immediately when you quit drinking, as a result of general detoxification.
If you believe you might be suffering from alcoholic neuropathy, it is vital to your quality of life that you find help! Contact us right away—your NeuropathyDR® clinician is ready to give expert, judgment-free guidance to help you adjust your lifestyle and stop symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy in their tracks.
For more information on coping with alcoholic neuropathy, get your Free E-Book and subscription to the Weekly Ezine “Beating Neuropathy” at http://neuropathydr.com.
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If you’re reading this, you likely already understand that so much of getting better when faced with a serious health issue and especially neuropathy and chronic pain is a do-it-for yourself project. And you likely realize a better self care plan can be a BIG piece of the puzzle.
It is also unrealistic for any doctor to say or any patient to assume that his or her own self-care does not have a major impact on their health, and yes of course recovery from any illness.
Because so many people find the topic so overwhelming, what I suggest is that you start by making very simple list. This is step one of your better self care plan.
For example, do you have the more common known risk factors that can cause or aggravate your health problems? This includes things like cigarette smoking, being as little as 10 to 20 pounds overweight, being inactive or sedentary, and consuming too much alcohol?
Do you now have to take more medications because your diet has been so poor?
You see all of these things can aggravate most health issues especially when neuropathy and chronic pain become part of them.
Perhaps there are genetic or family issues, which you cannot change completely.
But could you do a better job of taking care of yourself?
Could you walk more, stretch every day at least once, take your advised supplements and follow a plant based diet plan, and watch the timing and composition of your meals?
Are you using the NDGen® or wearable laser treatment devices you bought from us?
Could you do a better job of working on your stress, your high blood pressure and migraines?
Are you regularly exercising, and taking “time-outs” every day for meditation or prayer?
You see where I am going. One of the most important things you can do right now is to make a better self care plan list for yourself. Share this only with yourself and your health care professionals.
And then, choose just one thing to work on today!
Rather than becoming overwhelmed, it is much more productive to focus on one change at a time. Once that change has been activated, move onto the next. And so on, one day at a time.
When you start behaving in this way, you’ll likely find a better self care plan can improve results, and provide greater success when working with our treatment professionals!
This is after all is why many hundreds more patients are joining our ranks every week, and we so thank you for being part of our extended family!
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“Doctor, my blood sugar is just a little off–that can’t cause Neuropathy…”
Unfortunately, the reverse is probably true.
Here is reality: Aggressive treatment of both metabolic syndrome and diabetes can lessen the progression and the severity of one of the most common forms of peripheral neuropathy.
We have written extensively about diabetes and metabolic syndrome. We talk often about about how carrying excess body fat impairs our body’s ability to process blood fats and blood sugars.
There’s also really good evidence and multiple clinical studies that show even borderline elevations in the blood sugar over long periods of time make patients more likely to develop peripheral neuropathy.
So how does this slight elevation of blood sugar and blood fats or triglycerides cause neuropathy? Unfortunately, nobody is 100% sure. But there are several good theories.
The most likely explanation is that excess amounts of circulating fats and sugar interfere with your delicate nerves’ ability to take in critical nutrients, including oxygen.
Over a long period time, these can eventually manifest as the tingling, numbness, and burning so commonly found in peripheral neuropathy.
Because it is a well-known fact that patients with metabolic syndrome can likely develop a number of diseases, including heart disease and high blood pressure–as well as peripheral neuropathy—it is critical to attempt to reverse the changes wherever possible.
If frank diabetes develops, it is necessary to treat it as aggressively as possible with minimal side effects. We do know that aggressive treatment of both metabolic syndrome and diabetes can lessen the progression and the severity of one of the most common forms of peripheral neuropathy. But what happens if you’ve done all the right things and your neuropathy persists?
This is the most common presentation we now see in our clinics.
This is because so many more enlightened patients are taking charge of their health by improving their diet and starting to exercise on a regular basis.
And this is how we should all first approach patients with neuropathy and chronic nerve pain.
Let our team help you too.
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Have you been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy?
Do you have peripheral neuropathy in your feet and/or legs?
Has your doctor told you how important it is to take proper care of your feet?
Now, for the $25,000 bonus question…
Are you doing what your doctor tells you to do?
Many patients with peripheral neuropathy don’t take proper care of their feet and don’t follow their doctors’ instructions on foot care.
If you have peripheral neuropathy in your feet, not following your doctor’s instructions about the type of shoes you should wear and how to care for your feet can lead to amputation…
Ultimately, it could cost your life.
You’re Not Alone
If you’re not listening to your doctor and doing everything he tells you to do to care for your feet, you’re not the only one.
A recent study that followed 41 patients with type 2 diabetes found that
- 90% of the patients had been educated about proper footwear
- 83% washed and dried their feet properly every day
- 51% actually foot self-exams recommended by their doctors
But more than half the patients admitted that they walked around the house and even outside with no shoes. And more than two thirds of them were not wearing appropriate footwear. They were wearing shoes with pointed toes, high heels or flip flops, and even worse.
Finding the Right Shoes
If you have peripheral neuropathy in your feet, choosing the right shoes is vitally important. Here are some tips to help you know what to look for and what to avoid when you’re buying shoes:
- Never wear shoes with pointed toes.
- Avoid shoes with a really flat sole or high heels. Neither of these styles allow for even distribution of foot pressure.
- Buy shoes with soft insoles.
- Never buy plastic or synthetic materials that don’t allow your feet to breathe.
- Only wear shoes made of leather, suede or canvas that allow air to circulate around your feet and help them stay dry.
- Avoid slip ons – buy shoes with laces and buckles that allow you to adjust how tight your shoes are.
- Ask for professional assistance in getting the proper fit in every pair of shoes you buy.
- Proper shoes don’t have to look like something your grandmother would wear. You can buy stylish shoes that won’t land you in the hospital.
Remember that neuropathy is nerve damage. That means that the nerves in your feet are not functioning properly and you may not feel a problem until it’s too late and you have sores, blisters or ulcers. Those can be deadly.
See Your Doctor Regularly
Ultimately, you need to see your doctor regularly. Find a doctor who specializes in treating patients with neuropathy, like your local NeuropathyDR® clinician. They can help you choose proper footwear and take care of your feet on a routine basis and stop any problems before they’re severe. By seeing your doctor regularly and staying on top of any issues you may have, you can reduce your risk of amputation by between 20% and 70%.
For more information on coping with neuropathy, get your Free E-Book and subscription to the Weekly Ezine “Beating Neuropathy” at http://neuropathydr.co
Eating smart, such as getting used to smaller meals, and adding low-carbohydrate snacks, can help neuropathy and chronic pain patients feel much better.
One of the things that most patients with neuropathy—and many patients with chronic pain—discover, is that keeping well-fueled and well-hydrated goes a long way towards possibly reducing symptoms and improving the quality of life!
Now, the reasons for this are many, but the bottom line is: paying better attention to basic body needs dramatically improves the function of our brain and nervous system.
There are a couple of basic rules that serve most neuropathy and chronic pain patients very well.
First, let’s talk a little about water consumption. An easy rule of thumb is to consume one half your body weight in ounces during a 24-hour period.
So, if we weigh a hundred and eighty pounds, we should drink ninety ounces of water (or non-alcohol liquids) in a 24-hour period.
Remember, coffee, tea, and alcohol can cause us to lose fluid more rapidly, so go easy here. Under no circumstances should diet or other soft drinks be consumed.
Next, the mainstay or proper fueling is eating every 2 to 3 hours’ maximum. Getting used to smaller meals, and adding low-carbohydrate snacks such as several nuts or one half of an apple or other low-carb fruit, can help us feel much better.
The reason for this is it helps us maintain normal blood sugar levels and helps us burn fat more efficiently.
What a lot of people don’t understand is eating infrequently makes us much more efficient at producing body fat.
So, conversely, eating more frequently makes us feel better—and helps fuel us much more efficiently.
This is also what helps us fight things like diabetes and metabolic syndrome—that, as you already know, complicate many health problems, and make neuropathy and pain worse.
Like everything, there are exceptions to these rules. For example, if you’re insulin-dependent, you need to match your insulin dosage against your carbohydrate consumption very carefully.
Likewise, if you suffer from kidney or heart disease, you may need to be more careful with fluid consumption. Always follow your doctor’s orders.
Try these simple suggestions starting today, and see how much better you may feel within just a few days!
For more information on coping with neuropathy, get your Free E-Book and subscription to the Weekly Ezine “Beating Neuropathy” at http://neuropathydr.com.