Vitamin B12 deficiency is a condition sometimes inherited, but often also acquired; where there is alcoholism and vitamin B12 deficiency, alcoholic neuropathy (nerve damage) is often a factor. Here are some symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy and vitamin B12 deficiency.
What causes alcoholic neuropathy?
Scientists aren’t certain exactly what causes alcoholic neuropathy, but one theory is that long-term alcohol abuse has a toxic effect on the nervous system. Over time, alcoholics often develop vitamin B12 deficiency that, together with poisoning from alcohol, results in severe irreparable nerve damage, including the destruction of nerve cells.
About half of all long-time alcoholics suffer from nerve damage and vitamin B12 deficiency, affecting the central nervous system and peripheral nerves, including the autonomic nervous system that controls internal bodily functions.
Symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy
The earliest symptoms of nerve damage from vitamin B12 deficiency are easily overlooked, especially where alcoholism is a factor. If you feel like you’re always tired and depressed, or have trouble thinking clearly, then that could indicate the onset of neuropathy. In alcoholics, it’s easy to see how depression can be written off as another result of excess alcohol use.
Only a physician can confirm if some of the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, which is easily treatable with supplementation.
Symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy and vitamin B12 deficiency:
•Painful numbness and tingling in the arms and hands, legs and feet, and tongue (“pins and needles”)
•Weak, sore muscles
•Muscular twitches or tremors
•Muscle atrophy (wasting away)
•Inability to urinate
•Extreme sensitivity to heat, particularly after exercising
•Difficulty swallowing food
•Altered taste perception
•“Burning mouth syndrome”
•Short-term memory loss
Where alcoholism is the cause of vitamin B12 deficiency, only cessation of alcohol abuse can result in a lifelong cure.
If you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it’s imperative that you request a vitamin B12 blood test from your doctor. While the results aren’t always reliable (they only count total vitamin B12 levels, not active vitamin B12), they can indicate the need for vitamin B12 supplementation. Overall, your symptoms are the best gauges for deciding how much vitamin B12 you need, and for how long.
If diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency, your doctor will prescribe routine vitamin B12 shots (taken intramuscularly), to be followed by long-term vitamin B12 supplements.
Other coping mechanisms for alcoholic neuropathy may include:
•Pain relief medication
•Blood pressure medication
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