Alcoholic Neuropathy: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

What is Alcoholic Neuropathy?

Alcohol can be toxic to nerve tissue. People who drink too much may start to feel pain and tingling in their limbs. This is known as alcoholic neuropathy. In people with alcoholic neuropathy, the peripheral nerves have been damaged by too much alcohol use. The peripheral nerves transmit signals between the body, the spinal cord, and the brain.

Thiamine, folate, niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, and vitamin E are all needed for proper nerve function. Drinking too much can alter levels of these nutrients and affect the spread of alcoholic neuropathy. Fortunately, abstaining from alcohol can help restore your nutritional health. This may improve your symptoms and help prevent further nerve damage. However, some alcohol-induced nerve damage is permanent.


Symptoms of Alcoholic Neuropathy

Alcoholic neuropathy can affect both movement and sensation. Symptoms range from slight discomfort to major disability. Although the condition is not life threatening, it can decrease your quality of life. Some areas of the body affected by alcoholic neuropathy include:

Arms and Legs

  • numbness
  • tingling and burning
  • prickly sensations
  • muscle spasms and cramps
  • muscle weakness and atrophy
  • loss of muscle functioning
  • movement disorders

Urinary and Bowel

  • incontinence
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • problems starting urination
  • feeling that the bladder hasn’t been emptied fully


  • sexual dysfunction
  • impotence
  • impaired speech
  • difficulty swallowing
  • heat intolerance, particularly following exercise
  • vomiting and nausea
  • dizziness or lightheadedness

Call your doctor if you have neuropathy symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment make it more likely that you will be able to recover.