By Affiliated Foot & Ankle Care
April 26, 2017
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April is National Alcohol Awareness Month and at Affiliated Foot & Ankle Care we think it’s a good time to bring up this sometimes sensitive subject. Patients who overuse alcohol can suffer from neuropathy or nerve damage in their feet. The symptoms and risk are the same as for those patients who have peripheral neuropathy associated with diabetes. Often times, however, alcoholic neuropathy can be difficult to diagnose because patients are not forthcoming about their use of alcohol. We urge our patients and family members of patients who suffer from the disease of alcoholism to be honest with our podiatrists, Dr. Varun Gujral or Dr. Nrupa Shah and share this information. Without it, the foot doctor will not be able to make an accurate diagnosis and develop an effective treatment plan. As healthcare professionals, we know that alcoholism is a disease and will work with any patients who are afflicted with it to get help and relief from medical symptoms caused by the disease.

Dangers of Neuropathy

The alcoholic component in beverages is ethanol which is toxic to nerve tissue. Over time, patients who overuse alcohol may notice changes in their feet and hands such as loss of sensation, burning or tingling feelings, muscles weakness and reduced muscle function and muscle spasms. Neuropathy can be very painful. It can also make you less likely to notice injuries or skin conditions that can lead to serious infections. Finally, loss of proper muscle function can make you more likely to trip or fall.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The foot doctor will want to rule out other possible causes of nerve damage. There are several nerve and laboratory tests that can be done to help make an accurate diagnosis and confirm the source of the neuropathy. Once the podiatrist has done this, a treatment plan can be developed. Although nerve damage due to alcoholism is usually permanent, if the patient stops drinking and/or catches the neuropathy early enough, treatment can lessen the symptoms. Treatment options include: Vitamin B-12 injections, oral medications to ease any burning pain, topical ointments, magnetic therapy, galvanic stimulation (which is the therapeutic use of electric current, particularly for stimulation of nerves and muscle) and orthotic inserts for footwear.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of nerve damage contact our Edison, Monroe, or Monmouth Junction office for an appointment as soon as possible by calling: 732-662-3050.